Greetings and welcome. My home at 53.5° north is surrounded by icy roads and sidewalks but for the most part the weather has been fairly nice. The ice coupled with my second flat tire in a month restricted my outdoor riding this week, and the short days as we approach solstice are not helping increase a desire to get outside. But in a week the days will start getting longer once again, so the worst is almost passed.
Not much else happened this week. There was a lot of talk in Alberta about the mockdown / lockdown restrictions, and I did try out one new beer. But alas, that is all I have to report this week. Let's talk about the COVID restrictions, and what one former Albertan thinks of our plans.
"The evidence is that there's no conflict between what's right for the economy, what's right for people's health … people in hospital don't spend money." --Stephen Duckett, former CEO of Alberta Health Services, and currently one of the architects of Australia's plan to reach zero COVID cases
When Alberta Health Services announced its first CEO, my boss looked across the table at me and arched his eyebrows, visually asking me if I had any idea who this Stephen Duckett was. I of course had no idea. The short and turbulent tenure of Duckett is probably worthy of a book in itself, so I will not get into that here. What I will say is that in the limited times I was in the same room has him, it was clear he was intelligent.
CBC interviewing Duckett about what is happening in Alberta is a bit of inspired journalism and clickbait all rolled together, but there is some merit in understanding what Duckett is saying. In essence, under a plan that he co-authored, the idea was to do a substantial and complete lockdown, "done once and done well" as Duckett said. The state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne and is home to 6.4 million people has not seen a single case his the end of October. Even at the peak, Victoria only saw 700 cases a day.
Looking at the most recent COVID stats for Alberta paints a much different number. A jurisdiction with a population of 4.3 million people registered over 10,000 new cases last week, so over 1,000 cases a day. Plus our numbers are going up drastically, including our hospitalization rates. The comparison is tainted by the difference in seasons of course, as Victoria is going into summer not winter, but even with that it seems that we had the wrong approach here in Alberta.
"It's an outdated view, of course, because we now know the evidence is pretty clear that the best public health outcome is also the best economic outcome." --Stephen Duckett
The argument the Alberta government espouses is that chasing a goal for zero COVID cases is illiberal and extreme. Premier Kenney has touted supported for Charter freedoms as a rationale for not forcing a complete lockdown and for waiting for the level of lockdown that he has implemented. So instead of three months of hard lockdown, we did what we could to keep the economy open. It is hard not to think that this government values dollars over lives.
I did not make it to Hope as I, pun intended, hoped I would. As I type this on Sunday morning, I am a moderate ride away from getting there and chances are I will be able to hammer through a stationary bike session later today to get it done. But for now, I made it about half way to Hope and have my sights set on Merritt.
I mentioned last week that I was looking forward to albums by Art Blakey and Brian Eno. Those two albums were the only entries in the Music Finds playlist of this week.
Eno's album "Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks" was from 1983 and the Extended Edition featured twenty-three tracks. It took me a while to get into it, but after the first three tracks I was really enjoying it. "Silver Morning" and Deep Blue Day" on Volume 1 and "The End of a Thin Cord" on Volume 2 were real standouts for me.
"Is it True 'Bout ..." is the sixth Art Blakey album I have listened to since the summer and this was much more to my liking that the last couple. The version of "Round About Midnight" was fantastic. Plus it had the 1'40" "theme song" and after hearing that on multiple albums, I have to smile when I hear that woman trying to whip up the crowd: "Art Blakey. ART Blakely. ART BLAKEY."
Just one new beer this week, another version of the Jelly King sour from Bellwoods Brewery. As I went into Untappd to check this new beer in, I realized I made a mistake. Back in October, I checked in the Jelly King sour, but as you can see from the picture, I checked in the Pink Guava version. I was not really a fan of that one and gave it a 2.75 / 5 rating.
Beer #704 was the normal Jelly King sour, and it was better for sure, but I still don't think it was as good as my Untappd connections stated. It could be that I am not into sours right now given the colder weather, or it could be that I am bored with grapefruit flavor. Either way, I only gave this a rating of 3.25 / 5.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, at the end of a week consumed by COVID-related news and work. Here in Alberta, the government is now openly calling COVID a public health emergency. Not sure why it took so long to place that moniker on the pandemic, but clearly the satiric news site The Beaverton has their opinion on the matter.
In other COVID news, the consulting and research organization, McKinsey, released a report on the future of organization models. (Note that this article was released in August, but I just read it this week). In the report, McKinsey suggests that organizations can take advantage of the changes COVID forced to adopt and adapt to a better and more resilient structure. Part of the "next normal" as they call it is based on gig workers and contractors (read: people the organization does not have to pay benefits to), but the really interesting part was the leadership behavior changes exhibited by the most successful leaders. The chart below is taken from the article and shows which behaviors have risen and fallen in importance since the start of COVID.
Using "Challenging others and being provocative to inspire" as a baseline, it is interesting to see how "Being supportive and caring" has risen in importance nearly as much as "Using consultative leadership" has decreased. I can personally understand how authoritative leadership and internal competition have decreased, but consultative leadership was a surprise to me. I wonder if that means that some employees are part of a rapid decision-making process while others are just provided the outcome of the decision. Or perhaps the increased focus on empowerment and delegation means that less group consultation is required.
The other striking item from that chart is how much more the "rising" items went up in relation to how much the "falling" items went down. Nine falling items went down a total of 103 points, while the eight rising items when up a total of 128 points. The takeaway from that point for me is that it is way more important to focus on the rising items than it is to focus on the falling items.
Beyond COVID, there was little else of note this week. I finished one book, had one beer, and got in some cycling. There was some new music, but I only got through one listen this week so I will defer comments until next time.
Let's get through the recap and head into next week with hopefully more to speak about when all is said and done.
Good news this week. I was able to finish off the first leg of my cross-Canada virtual tour and made good progress on the first segment of the second leg. Here is what the chart looks like after the week.
It is nice to see the solid block of green for the first leg. The second leg is much shorter than the first, so I anticipate getting through it quicker. In the 60 days since I started logging my rides, I have averaged 8.8 km per day so I should be able to finish the Vancouver to Kamloops segment by the first week of January.
Putting the Port Hardy to Victoria leg to bed, here are some fun facts about Victoria according to Wikipedia. The greater Victoria area has a population of just over 367,000, the airport code is YYJ, it calls itself the Garden City, and it has the highest rate of bicycle commuting to work of any census metropolitan area in Canada as per the 2011 and 2016 census. (As a side note, my Starbucks mug from Victoria touts the city as the Cycling Capital of Canada.)
One might think that my reading would have been significantly increased this year due to COVID, but I am not sure I will equal my reading for 2019 at the rate I am going. I am in the middle of two books with the daughters, I have one more that I will probably finish tonight, and five that have been "in progress" for a long time that I should be able to finish by the end of December. Whether I will be able to finish an additional five books in the next month is pretty unlikely, so my 2020 total will probably be in the high-4o's.
Book #40 for 2020 was "Invictus" by Ryan Gaudin. This was a decent book with a quite interesting time travel premise. It is next to impossible to discuss the premise without spoiling the book, so I will not do that here. Gaudin seems like a solid writer and I will seek out other books of hers in the future, but I did feel like the premise in Invictus would have been better served by a more seasoned sci-fi writer. I think Invictus would be a good basis for a Hollywood screenplay as well.
Only one new beer this week, but it was check-in #700, so it was a bit of milestone. The Florida Weisse from Blindman was a fruit sour with "lemons, limes, and clementines". I did get a bit of citrus and a little pith while tasting it but I could not differentiate between the citruses unfortunately. It was clean and tasty, but was not superb. (3.25 / 5)
Greetings. It was a weird week personally for me, with turmoil and angst that turned to clarity and finally relief.
Turmoil to Angst to Clarity to Relief
It was about this time in 2015 that I was interviewing for a volunteer position on the CKUA Board. The whole process took months, with the Board approving my nomination in October and then the CKUA Foundation ratifying that decision at the Annual General Meeting in January 2016.
The little more than four-and-a-half years I spent on that Board have certainly taught me a lot. I understand financials better. I understand not-for-profits better. I have learned more about human motivations, both mine and for others. The most significant learning however has been about entitlement. My time on the CKUA Board came to an end this last week because I did not fully understand how much of a reaction our actions would cause to a small handful of entitled individuals. Do not get me wrong - we made mistakes, most notably in our communications to the Foundation members. But those mistakes could have been overcome with a more reasonably-minded and less entitled set of stakeholders. We executed a decision in June that was wildly unpopular with those stakeholders, and so began the turmoil. As we worked an unreasonable amount of hours to satisfy the stakeholders requests, the angst grew as it became clear we would never make them happy.
In the end, my time on the Board came to an end as we realized on Wednesday what we had to do, and then resigned en masse on Thursday. The clarity turned to relief on Thursday as I hit send on the email to the Foundation members that included our resignation note. The relief was solely because we knew that we would no longer have to face those entitled stakeholders and hear their misleading comments.
I am going to post a long form article on entitlement. I drafted most of it in late July at near the peak of the turmoil that I and the rest of the Board was going through. I will come back and edit this entry with a link once it is up.
I found myself with more time this week than expected. Funny how that worked out. I finished one book that nearly was done in time for last week, read about one-third of a non-fiction book and about half of a murder mystery.
Book #31 for 2020 was "The Golden Compass" by Philip Pullman. I came to this novel as a result of seeing it on my older daughter's bookshelf and then realizing that the HBO series "His Dark Materials" was based on the trilogy that Compass is the start of.
I can definitely see why this novel would be an interesting basis for a television series. It has evocative characters with lots of imagery, wildly interesting twists on technology and magic, and a plot that twists and turns without becoming confusing or muddled. I am looking forward to watching the series, but I think I will read the next two books in the series first.
If I had a opportunity to provide feedback to the book publishers, I would definitely suggest they update the cover art on the books. What I saw on the book cover and what I read are two different things. I knew it was a YA book, but the cover art made me think it was another "Polar Express", admittedly a fine book in its own right, but not a dark tale at all. Compare the book art with the publicity material for the television series and I think you will agree.
Regardless of that bit of personal preference, I definitely recommend this book.
It was a quiet week for new music, pun definitely intended. The only album that I added to my Music Finds playlist for this week was "Pleased to Meet Me" by The Replacements. The friend that recommended this album said that The Replacements were one of his "favorite snotty rock bands ever". You can tell my friend is a music fan based on how he can classify his favorites into sub-specialties as focused as that.
I did enjoy the album and as I read a short bio for the band I noticed that lead singer Paul Westerberg had two songs on the soundtrack for "Singles". Singles was a huge movie and soundtrack for me in 1992 as I got ready to leave university and not be, you know, single. So while that soundtrack was not a music find for me this week, it was a nice nostalgia trip to get reacquainted with it from a link to a new-to-me artist and album.
There were a couple new beers this week, bringing my unique check-ins on Untappd up to 680.
Check-in #679 was the Irish Red from Hell's Basement. Admittedly, I am not a fan of reds, but this one seemed to have a too-harsh taste to it. The Red was my fifth check-in from Hell's Basement and this is right at their average of 3.0 out of 5. My overall average across my check-ins is around 3.3 so I have some definite evidence to indicate Hell's Basement is not a brewery I should personally seek out.
Being on a personal quest to drink one of every beer in the world will eventually land you at a table in front of this beer. Check-in #680 was the River Valley Golden Lager from Big Rock and it scored the same as the Red at 3.0 out of 5. However, it was a pleasant surprise instead of a disappointment, especially since - or maybe as a direct result of - it was $1.75 a can. Nothing super mind you, but I have spent more on worse beers.
A lot of new words this week. My readings are really disparate lately with a general theme of British influence, in particular Victorian-era Britain and technology.
Welcome from 53.5° north latitude, where I wasn't for the majority of the week. We were fortunate to be able to escape to the mountains for a few days. Being out in nature was a great refresher, and the weather was fantastic which made it even better.
Back in March, I posted an article about the Goldman Sachs prediction that the US economy would decrease by 24%. I was thinking about that post as I listened to the Planet Money episode from July 30, entitled "GDP -32.9%???!!!" (emphasis theirs). As it turns out, the 24 % / 32% decreases are a bit misleading. The Planet Money episode describes how the GDP prediction is how much the economy would shrink if the current performance was extrapolated out for four consecutive quarters.
In fact, the US economy shrunk by 9.5% in the last quarter. Seeing a decrease of 9.5% is far less dramatic than seeing -32.9%, but it is still most likely the worst quarter in US history so the impact should not be overlooked. One economist on the podcast speculated that a lot of that decrease would come back once restaurants, bar, sporting events, and other social events return to previous levels.
However, I still question how soon that will be. Bill Gates was quoted in a recent Wired article that he suspects we still have between 18 and 30 months before we have a consistent semblance of pre-COVID normalcy in our societies.
And that makes me feel like, for the rich world, we should largely be able to end this thing by the end of 2021, and for the world at large by the end of 2022. --Bill Gates
If Gates' prediction is accurate, then the temporary nature of the GDP decrease starts to become much more permanent.
In other readings about the impact of COVID on society and industry, the New York Times had an interesting long article on how COVID crushed the fashion industry, and interestingly how it was already imploding over the last few years. I had not realized how much venture capital influenced the fashion industry, but apparently the toxic mindset of needing quick profits and immediate results was a crushing blow to several small fashion houses. Added to this was the collapse of traditional retail channels, and the fashion industry was ripe for failure just as COVID came along. It is an interesting article as much about bubble economies as COVID.
I highlighted the band Dead Horses in last week's entry, and mentioned that I was looking forward to checking out their February release of the EP entitled "Birds". After a few listens through, I definitely enjoy the album but I do not find the personal connection that I did with "My Mother The Moon". Still, they are a good duo with good music.
That is it for new music this week. So much time was spent outside that I did not have much time to dig into anything new.
Even though I was on holidays and even though the weather was super warm for most of the week, I only had two beers. The first was a great hot weather beer, and the other was unfortunately something that would have been better in cooler weather.
The first beer was the hot weather hit, the Big Chutes Lager from Freehold Brewing in Calgary. This is a very good lager, which is a style I tend to dismiss fairly consistently. Big Chutes was clean and very drinkable and is definitely worth keeping around the house, even on less than blisteringly warm days. (3.75 / 5)
The second beer was the Parkway Porter from Folding Mountain Brewing. I was sitting 200 m from the brewery and taproom when I drank this, which is always a nice way to enjoy a beer. It was really hot when I drank it, and a porter is not really a great beer for the heat. I will have to have it again when it is cooler to check my rating. (3.25 / 5)
I picked up a few new words this week, and as you can see, they are all words that are outdated or archaic, which speaks to the setting in the story I was reading at the time.
Greetings from 53.5° north once again. It was a hot one this week, with temperatures far above my preferred range.
As far as blog-worthy commentary goes, this week was pretty thin. This is likely due to the push to wrap things up before I take some holiday time. Even with that however, I was still able to finish one book accompanied by a nice handful of words, found some new music worth commenting on, and had one new beer .
Let's get on with it, shall we?
I read a fair bit this week, and finished one book. Book #30 for 2020 was "The Secret World of Og", by Pierre Berton. Labeling this book a Canadian classic seems a bit of a stretch. It was definitely on the plus side of good, but it was hardly a classic. It was written by Berton though, who is of course one of the great Canadians, so maybe it is a classic just because of the author. One definite redeeming feature was the art in the edition I have was done by one of Berton's daughters, and clearly done at a young age.
Looking at the stats for the year, I am now on pace to finish 51 books in 2020. That pace makes me pretty happy. For my upcoming reads, I want to do a lot of reading in August as the month will hopefully be pretty laid back. I certainly have a lot of books to read right now; unfortunately, all of my holds from the library started arriving this week so I have nearly 1300 pages of books sitting on my desk, plus two ebooks clocking it at probably another 500 pages total. I will need a can-do attitude to get all of that done before I have to return everything.
I added a couple good albums to my Music Finds playlist for this week. All three came from this week's episode of Acoustic Tuesday with Tony Polecastro. Polecastro discussed ten albums that changed his life. The first one of his ten that I added to my playlist was "Fork in the Road" by The Infamous Stringdusters. My experience with this album was not the same as what he experienced. It was definitely okay and the playing was quite good, but I did not find myself really getting into it.
Luckily the other two albums had much more impact. "Evening Machines" by Gregory Alan Isakov was a solid album, and I really enjoyed "Bullet Holes" and "Dark, Dark, Dark". The real highlight of the three though was "My Mother the Moon" by Dead Horses. I was already familiar with Dead Horses as their song "American Poor" appeared in my feed a few months ago. Added to that were "A Petal Here, a Petal There" and "On and On" as real standouts. I really find that singer Sarah Vos sounds like Carole King on "Tapestry", and that is pretty good company. I'm looking forward to digging into the album Dead Horses released in February in the upcoming week.
When I was in high school, our school sports teams played against other schools from around Central Alberta, including the small town (as in even smaller than my hometown of Stettler) of Rimbey. Being 16 and in a competitive situation on the basketball court, we were quick with the insults to the town, the school, the girls, and pretty much anything else related to Rimbey.
In the three-plus decades since, I have certainly moved beyond name calling for towns like Rimbey, but that is due to my maturity and not because something changed or improved. But now there has been a change in the town of Rimbey that I can be excited about, as the town is the proud home of Hawk Tail Brewery.
I was excited to grab a couple of their Amber Ale this week. The beer did not hold up to my level of excitement unfortunately. I thought the maltiness was pretty good, but I picked up too much burnt taste from the caramel. That does not mean this is bad brewery of course, and so I will check out others from Hawk Tail in the near future.
Rimbey, where the men are men, and the .. men are now brewing beer.
Quite a number of words this week, with some coming from Berton's Og but mainly from the other in-progress books.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. The week was action-packed and full of suspense and intrigue. Or at least one good book, another local nature walk, a couple good beers, and a few new words. Before we get into the regular sections of the blog, there are a couple things worth noting.
Facial recognition software has really hit the news of late, with Microsoft, IBM, and others voluntarily pausing sales in the surveillance software in light of issues raised with police violence and the death of George Floyd. This followed the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the provincial Commissioners in Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta jointly investigating Clearview AI amid concerns of personal information being collected without notice or consent. It is unclear if or how the joint investigation will proceed now that Clearview AI has completely pulled out of the Canadian market. This will be an interesting and important story to continue to follow .
The second interesting item was in the recent Freakonomics podcast, "Remembrance of Economic Crises Past". Near the end of the podcast, Freakonomics host Stephen Dubner asks his guest Christina Romer about the particular US brand of capitalism. I found that a particularly interesting phrase to use, as it admits that there are different forms of capitalism and implies that the particular version in place in America might not survive. Here is the full quote of what he asks Romer.
DUBNER: And let’s say that some of the changes that have happened thus far to travel, to live entertainment, to restaurants — basically all of them wiped down close to zero — let’s say that for a variety of reasons, they sort of stick, and that people don’t return to them, in in large numbers at least. Do you feel that the U.S. economy and our brand of capitalism is still set up to be as vibrant and nimble to adjust and for people to job-reallocate? Or do you worry that a lot of people in those industries, which employ millions of people, that they will essentially be adrift, perhaps for a long time, unable to reallocate into commensurate jobs?
I wrote a lot about capitalism in 2019, and a lot of my readings dealt with the concept of post-capitalism. In 2019, a lot of people on the outside of mainstream were struggling with the rules of the game associated with capitalism. Now in 2020, a lot of people that are solidly in the mainstream, see Dubner above, seemed to be are openly wondering if the intellectual ruminations of a year ago have actual credence. If they do, we are about to enter a very interesting period in history.
And lastly, since travel has been curtailed due to COVID, a lot of people are spending more time close to home. As a family, we have always been fairly comfortable with staycations, but this year we are definitely trying to make the most of the local nature scene.
Enter the Alberta Discover Guide. This free guide is usually something I pick up when I buy my fishing license for the year, but this year it has become a valuable source of new locations to visit. The Guide lists over 150 sites in the Edmonton area alone, and I would be surprised if we have previously visited 25 of them.
Yesterday we visited the John E. Poole Interpretative Wetland and Boardwalk. This was a great location for a quick walk to get out into nature and see a lot of birds including Barn Swallows, Coots, and Ruddy Ducks. If you live in Alberta, grab a copy of the Guide or the corresponding mobile app, and get out and explore nature in your area.
I suggested last week that I might actually finish a third book before the end of last week. Alas, that did not happen and so that book became the only book I finished this week. Book #26 for 2020 was "Sourcery" by Terry Pratchett, the fifth book in the Discworld series. This might have been my favorite book in the series so far, mainly because I have become fond of the bumbling Rincewind. Getting into any part of the plot will be difficult without this post being a total spoiler, so I will just comment that it was an enjoyable and quite funny book and that I continue to look forward to the rest of the books in the series.
I'm going to try something different for a while when it comes to music. I have been creating weekly playlists in Tidal for my "Music Finds" and it occurred to me that I could share what I found on this site as well.
My "Music Finds - Week of 06Jul2020" playlist includes new albums from Rufus Wainwright which seemed a bit to "show tunes"-y for me, one from a singer-songwriter named Margo Price that I really enjoyed, and a live album from Blossoms, which is a band that I hadn't heard of before but quite liked what I heard.
Two new beers this week, and they were both really good. First up was the Kasteel Tripel, a nice Belgian tripel. Really good stuff. Lots of flavor and aroma. The high ABV really didn't dominate the experience. (4.0 / 5) The second was a latest in the Dragon series from Alley Kat. If you have read this blog for any length of time, you know I'm a big fan of the Dragon series, and Enigma didn't disappoint. The Australian Enigma hops took a bit to get used to, but I definitely enjoyed the flavor and aroma once I did. Nice stuff once again. (4.0 / 5)
Just three new words this week. I have to admit that I'm sure the first one was some sort of pun or inside joke from Pratchett, but I did not get it if it was.
Greetings once again from 53.5° north latitude. This was the first week of several where most of the population is working from home or otherwise isolated. My parents haven't talk to anyone in over two weeks now; our entire family spends nearly the entire day in our house; businesses are either offering curbside pickup or are completely shut down.
It is hard to believe it has only been a week, and that the week before that was the real start of the preparation. Our family seems to be handling the close proximity and change of schedule well so far, but there are several weeks of this to come.
Economy and COVID:
As I mentioned last week, the economy is reeling from the shutdown stores and businesses and the hits to the global supply chain. Of particular interest to Albertans, whose economic well-being is nearly inseparable from the oil and gas sector, the price of oil continues to fall. Take a look at the next two graphics, and see if you can tell the difference between a barrel of Western Canadian Select crude and a Starbucks Iced Cocoa Macchiato.
Now I've never tasted either but I assume the Starbucks drink is more appealing to the palate. But even more disturbing that the thought of drinking crude oil, at least in terms of the Alberta economy, is that on Friday the Starbucks Macchiato cost more than a barrel of crude oil from our province. The impact to Alberta cannot be overstated.
Common wisdom is that conventional oil in Alberta costs about $40 per barrel to produce. The provincial budget for 2020 forecast oil to be at around $58 per barrel. A fifty dollar differential is the difference between having social programs that the government is looking to radically overhaul and not having any social programs at all..
We have already seen calls from US President Trump to "restart" the US economy, citing concerns that America “cannot” let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” I am certain that there are grave economic concerns in the US, but I doubt that the combined impact of COVID and low oil prices has a bigger impact in any jurisdiction in the US than it does in Alberta. So far, Alberta politicians have not called for economic considerations to take precedence over public health considerations. So far.
With that news, I am impressed that I only had one new beer this week. I have posted about Collective Arts previously and I contend that they are one of the best breweries in Canada.
It was with this pedigree in mind that earlier this week I tried their Lunch Money American Blond. A handsome looking beer in a beautiful can, so everything started out well. Unfortunately, this beer doesn't stack up with the rest of the Collective Arts lineup and was pretty generic stuff. It wasn't poorly done, but didn't have much to keep me interested. (3.0 / 5)
On a different note, I received the "Here's To You (Level 5)" badge from Untappd, signifying five years of logging my beers on that site. In those five years, I have logged 645 unique beers or an average of one new beer every 2.84 days. Since my first post on this site one year ago, I have logged 111 new beers or an average of one every 3.35 days. My beer consumption is going down, and at this rate, I'll never meet my personal quest of drinking one of every beer in the world.
Very little reading this week, so only a single new word.