Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, where it is 27°C warmer today than it was a week ago, and 37° warmer than it was two weeks ago. Last week I lamented that my cycling was limited to the stationary bike in the basement. With the increased temperatures this week, three of my four rides this week were outside.
Beyond cycling outside, I had a pretty quiet week. The entry this week will be limited to one gaming update, a bit of music news, and four new beers.
This week was a big one for my RPG gaming group. Thursday was the 52 week anniversary of our group getting together after posting for players on Meetup. 52 weeks ago we got together (in person!) and rolled some characters and talked about what we wanted out of the game, what a lot of people will call a Session 0. There were six of us including me, and those six plus one more played again March 12, which was the eve of the pandemic madness. Three of that group plus me started playing online and the session on Thursday was number 23 and the end of what could be considered Chapter 1 of the story.
The text below is what I read out to the group 49 weeks ago as we got into our first real session. (Any references to official Forgotten Realms content is made under the Open Gaming License.)
It is a period of civil unrest. The so-called "dominant" races of humans and dwarves make up the majority of the population in the larger cities, and the larger cities control the economy of the Sword Coast. The economy is particularly strong in the centers of Luskan, Neverwinter, Waterdeep, and Baldur's Gate. Smaller centers directly on the High Road between the four centers are benefiting from increased trade along the High Road, but the true economic wealth is being concentrated in the major centers. Any spillover wealth along the High Road is a fraction at best, and this is leading to many public and private conversations about wealth inequality and the need for a different social contract.
The smaller centers along the High Road are able to experience the vast differences in wealth first hand as the nobles and merchants travel along the High Road in their expensive coaches accompanied by extensive support teams. However, there is even more dramatic differences immediately off the High Road. Settlements such as Lloreth, Mirabar, or Athkatla are experiencing almost zero economic growth. Smaller centers like Nashkel are faring even worse. They are bleeding people to the larger centers and are increasingly unable to protect themselves from bandits, thugs, and opportunistic humanoid races that have long felt themselves to be ignored by the humans and dwarves. The goblins of the Sword Mountains caverns have started to push into the foothill settlements into small villages such as Needlebush.
Needlebush is largely populated by a human population that historically welcomed settlers from all lands. However, the brash moves of the goblins have begun to change opinions and Needlebush has begun to openly distrust all visitors. After the most recent goblin raid two nights ago, all non-human races have been forcibly moved to a Safety Camp in the village center. This Safety Camp is a walled area with one locked and guarded entrance. The guards at the entrance and the roving guards throughout the village are part of the newly formed "Needlebush First" militia.
As the "Needlebush First" militia rounded up all of the non-humans, all weapons and magic items were confiscated from the non-humans. Needlebushians are still polite though, and you were given a numbered tag to ensure you get your belongings back when you leave the Safety Camp.
You and about fifteen other individuals have spent the last day and a half outside, exposed to the elements, with meagre rations provided. Earlier today, a loud, large half-orc became aggressive towards the guards and was beaten unconscious as a result. The beaten and bloodied half-orc lies off to the side, untended and probably dying.
That's where you find yourself now.
There were two items of note regarding in the Music Finds playlist this last week, but neither were really new. The first was that I discovered a live version of the Boxer album from The National. Boxer is one of my favorite albums of all time and definitely one of my Desert Island Albums. I have been listening to a few live albums yesterday, so Boxer live from Brussels popped into my Tidal feed. As with the studio release, the live album was fantastic and definitely worth listening to.
The other artist I added to the Music Finds playlist this week was Chick Corea, who unfortunately passed away on February 9. Corea recorded many albums as a soloist or member of a group in his half-century career, way more than I could ever completely dig in to. But there were some amazing albums and the one I think of when I think of Corea has to be "Now He Sings, Now He Sobs" from 1967. As a result, that was the other album I added to Music Finds for this week. If you are interested in some videos on Corea, Rick Beato has a nice stream up on YouTube, and there is an NPR recording of a live concert, also on YouTube. RIP, Chick.
Four new beers this week, which seems like a lot when I think about it, but I suppose four beers in seven days is not that big of a deal.
Beer #724 was the Prairie Fairy Wheat Ale from Sea Change. I am a fan of Sea Change but this was a miss for me. It was fruity but without much intensity. Also it might have been over-carbonated. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #725 was the 2018 version of Alley Kat's Olde Deuteronomy barleywine. I always liked the Olde Deuteronomy barleywines every year, and I miss them now that they are no longer in production. I was happy to find this at the brewpub / head office. This had a nice boozy flavor without an alcohol burn and a nice taste to go with the beautiful caramel color. I wish I could buy more, but was happy to find a bottle in the Alley Kat brewpub / head office. (3.75 / 5)
I am a fan of vanilla flavors in stouts and porters, but I find they can be a bit sweet. In fact, Beer #1 back on March 22, 2015 on Untappd was the Mill St. Vanilla Porter and I commented that it was "a bit on the sweet side". Beer #726 was the Seaport Vanilla Stout from Lighthouse Brewing in Victoria. This was a winner as it had just a hint of sweetness and the vanilla was more smelled than tasted. It had a bit too much of an alcohol burn, but it was still really good, especially as it did not suffer from being too sweet. (3.75 / 5)
Last up for this week and Beer #727 was the Tumbling Goat Belgian Pale Ale from Endeavour Brewing in St. Albert. I am not a big fan of intense spices in beers like pepper or cloves. This one had a bit of a burn to it and I was not really a fan as result. The color and aroma were fine though, and it created a wonderfully foamy head. It was just the spiciness that turned me off it. (3.0 / 5)
Happy Valentine's Day 2021 from 53.5° north latitude. We might be twelve days past Groundhog Day for the year, but the days really feel the same. Every day. Get up. Work. Go to bed. Maybe some variety pops into the day. Hey, time to buy groceries! Hey, a package was delivered to the house! I have mentioned on this blog that I feel uniquely suited to handle life during a pandemic due to the combination of my personal situation, job, and personality, but even I would like a change.
Once it warms up; Once it is lighter outside; Once we have a vaccine; Once we can travel again. All those onces. It is important to focus on what we have in the present how we can make do with that. I will not speak for you, but I at least need to be grateful for the flexibility I have in my life.
With that out of the way, the week that was had a few interesting points to discuss, a milestone in the cross-Canada virtual tour, and one new beer. No books finished this week but I expect one for sure will be done next week and quite possibly a second as well.
Internet and e-commerce law professor Michael Geist, posted an interesting entry on his blog about an Opposition member's motion in the House of Commons to amend Bill C-10 (Broadcasting Act). Conservative MP Michael Kram rose in the House and his comment was cheeky and wonderful.
"I think we could do Canadians a lot of good by withdrawing this bill and rewriting it from scratch to ensure that everyone is included in it and to ensure we have the best legislation we can for Canadians. Therefore, I would like to move the following amendment. I move:
Replacing every word after the opening "That" means that the entire Bill would be replaced. In other words, MP Kram is of the opinion that the Bill should be thrown out. I am not a fan of biased politicking and grandstanding in the House, but in this case MP Kram makes a good case. Geist has dissected Bill C-10 going so far as to label the Bill as a "Blunder". Geist's full analysis can be read on this page. Regardless of your feelings on the actions of MP Kram in the House, his actions drew attention to a flawed bit of proposed legislation. I recommend reading both posts from Geist.
Switching gears, I have a few comments about the creative work I am doing in support of my gaming and gamemastering. In the past year and a half, I have made a few posts with updates on the games I am leading and playing in. It has been four months since my last entry about this and in that last entry, I discussed player agency. I commented specifically how "I think the key is to provide lots of options for the players and to be prepared enough to be flexible if the players do something unexpected".
I have worked on making sure my players had as much agency as possible in the last four months. One tool that I really like is the point crawl system I read about on Mike Shea aka Sly Flourish's blog last month. The essence is there are multiple paths to get from A to B, but ultimately you want your players to get to B. Maybe they have an encounter along the way or find some shortcut. Or maybe they gain or lose something along the way that helps or hurts them when they finally get to B. That something could be an item, an ally, or maybe just some health.
In one of the campaigns I am currently running, they players are planning an attack on an enemy camp. They have four possible entrances and one ultimate goal. I will let them pick how they go and how they want to proceed once in the camp. But this is a game after all and roleplaying games require dice rolls. If they do nothing other than roll dice, it will take at least three rolls to get to their destination. If they actively engage with the situation they find themselves in, they can influence the rolls. And since it is a game, their actions and poor rolls can have some fun outcomes.
For what it is worth, here is the point crawl map I created for the upcoming session. The numbers represent my suggested required dice roll results. Red arrows are bad and provide a low percent chance of being spotted. The thick black arrows represent road that traverse the camp. The dotted brown arrow in the top right is my template that I will use to track their actual route.
Call me a wimp, but I am still riding inside due to the cold weather outside. Riding indoors has very little appeal for me, but I have discovered that watching my YouTube "Watch Later" playlist while cycling can make the endeavor bearable.
I hit the saddle five times this week and logged a virtual 67 km. The important note for this week is that I finished off Leg #3 and have virtually landed in Valemount (with a U), British Columbia. Valemount has a decent entry on Wikipedia that I encourage you to read. However, I would like to regale you with a story about my first trip to Valemount.
Back when I was in university, my alma mater had an annual Engineering Week which was just an excuse to drink wrapped in a veneer of school spirit and friendly competition. One event in Eng Week was a scavenger hunt, and it was a well-known fact that a cold six-pack of Kokanee was a perennial item on the list. Back in those uncivilized times, one could only purchase beer in Alberta that was brewed in Alberta. Weird, huh?
Armed with that knowledge, me and two friends decided to drive to British Columbia and buy as much Kokanee as we could on the eve of Eng Week. We were going to drive to Fernie and go skiing, but there was a blizzard and poor driving conditions so we decided that was not going to happen. We pulled out a map - remember, this was a LONG time ago - and looked for other towns in British Columbia that we could go to. Lo and behold, Valemount appeared on our map and at 06:00 the next morning, the three of us loaded into my 1978 Mustang II and drove to Valemount (with a U), returning later that day with 7.5 flats of Kokanee. I will not go into details how only one of us was of legal drinking age in British Columbia and only one of us had a credit card. And I will not go into details about how much money we made selling that beer to people back at school. But I will say that I cannot think of Valemount without thinking of that story.
Back to the cycling update, below is an updated view of my progress chart.
You will notice that I have plotted out Leg #4, from Valemount to Edmonton. The next 492 km is a fairly scenic route with a lot of familiar stops, at least for me. The map below gives some context of the trip for those of you unfamiliar with the route.
I dove into a lot of new music this week, as you can see in the Music Finds playlist for this week. In addition, I figured out why my embedded code links to my playlist always had the same four icons. Tidal uses the album icon for the first four songs in the playlist so starting this week, I will copy songs from the albums and put them at the start of the playlist in order to mix up the art work a bit.
The first album was a 2010 offering from Daniel Langois performing as Black Dub. Check out Langois's discography sometime - it just screams late 80's, but to be fair the variety of artists he worked with is staggering. Black Dub's self-titled album was definitely solid with "Silverado: and "Canaan" as strong songs with "Ring The Alarm" being the album standout.
Next up was "Forevergreens" from Swedish alt-jazz (is that a thing?) band Tonbruket. This definitely had a different vibe to it, but for the most part I liked it. "The Missing" and "Polka Oblivion" are both really good, especially the violin on Polka Oblivion.
The third album was "THE FUTURE BITES" by British prog rocker Steven Wilson. I said last week that I was not into that type of music, but this album might make me change my mind. The songs were not massively long with most under five minutes. "MAN OF THE PEOPLE" and "KING GHOST" were really good, and "PERSONAL SHOPPER" had subtle background vocals that highlight the foibles of mass consumption and consumerization.
The fourth album was a result of my digging into Phil Collins after learning that he celebrated his seventieth birthday, as I reported last week. Seconds Out is a live album recorded in Paris in 1976. This predates my experience with Genesis which started with Abacab in 1981. There was a few songs I liked but this was another album with long, drawn out songs. I just could not get into it.
Last up was an album I was really looking forward to but was disappointed in. Hey Clockface from Elvis Costello was something I was really looking forward to. At the end of November, I mentioned "No Flag", a song with Costello and Iggy Pop. Hey Clockface had a version of that song without Iggy Pop, so that was a let down, and maybe that soured my experience. I will give it another listen, but I am not hopeful.
Three for five this week. Not bad, especially given how many good songs there were on the three good albums.
Just one new beer this week. Beer #723 was the Conspiracy IPA from Yukon Brewing. There was a lot of flavor with this one and it was quite a mouthful, with lots of hoppy bitterness and some tart citrus. Picked up a bit of pepper on the backend as well, which was somewhat off-putting. Overall still pretty decent though. (3.25 / 5)
Greetings from where the north latitude and the temperature are not that much different!
The week that was was definitely cold. There was no way I was going outside for a ride, so any and all cycling was confined to the stationary bike in the basement. In addition to saddle time, I did sample a few new beers, finished a book on the third try, and dug into some music. Before we get to the regular items, there are two items of note this week that I want to spend some time on.
The first is related to a question I posed to several people recently: which is more important, public health at the population level, or rights and freedoms at the individual level? In Canada, that can be phrased as a question between public health versus the Charter of Right and Freedoms.
I asked this exact question to several people in the last week, phrased specifically to pit the Charter against public health. The question elicited a strong response in every case. A few people were staunchly opposed to the argument that personal rights had any role in a pandemic. Others were tormented by the question and were unwilling to answer.
One friend found this blog entry for the Centre for Constitutional Studies at the University of Alberta law school. "The One vs the Many: When Public Health Conflicts with Individual Rights" highlights how hard it is to balance between the good of the many and the rights of the individual. One note from the blog that I was unaware of was how Canada was less respectful of individual rights during the 2003 SARS outbreak than either Hong Kong or Shanghai. The blog entry ends with a question that is still not answered as we close in on one full year of quarantine measures: How can the law both help protect the life of the population, and at the same time protect the individual against the powers the state takes upon itself to engage that task? How, indeed.
The second item of note is a TED Talk that I watched titled "Sleep is your superpower". Matt Walker is a sleep scientist and he made some great arguments for getting more sleep, and for getting it more regularly. The concept is not new, but there were some interesting scientific tidbits that I had not understood. Cue the opening sentence about testicles, for example. Or how the World Health Organization categorizes night shift work as a "possible carcinogen" due to the correlation between lack of regular sleep and cancer. It was a great way to spend twenty minutes, but please do not watch it late at night!
One week, one book finished. But that is not really fair. Book #5 for 2021 was "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith. This was a book that I desperately wanted to read, but I had two failed starts with it and was concerned that I would not make it through once again. The first attempt was several years ago and it was the audiobook format. I had significant trouble with the slow and overly deliberate pacing of the narration. (I think that was in the days before we had the option to listen at 1.25 times normal speed.) With a slow delivery and painstaking emphasis on the pronunciation of the protagonist's name (Mmm-mmAH RrrrrammmottssssWEY), I could not finish it.
The second attempt was on summer vacation in 2019. The rental home we stayed at had it in the shelves and I picked it up and read the first third. I did not finish it though, so I was concerned that it would never get read. I need not have been worried though as I picked it up and finished it in a few hours this week. It was entirely enjoyable and definitely worth the read. Mma Rowatswe's persistence and insight into people was nearly as great to read as was her view on how to live a fulfilling life. I am not sure if I will read the other books in the series, but I am glad I read this one. Finally.
As I mentioned in the intro, the frigid weather limited the cycling time to the stationary bike in the basement. I logged the equivalent of 62 km this week, which is definitely the upper limit for me on a stationary bike. But even though inside rides are suboptimal, it was better than being completely sedentary for the whole week.
I was able to make it through to Blue River, British Columbia on my virtual cross-Canada cycling tour. There is not much to say about Blue River. The Wikipedia entry suggests a population of 157, and the biggest highlight seems to be that the Lodgepole pine is the most common tree in the area. Onward to Valemount (with a U!)! Only 66 km to get there, which I should be able to do, even if I am stuck in the basement all week.
Two new albums in this week's Music Finds playlist. One was fantastic, and the other was not up my alley.
First up was the fantastic album. A couple weeks ago I mentioned The New Mastersounds and their album "Shake It". Back then I said that album was okay but that I heard "Tantalus" from their "Renewable Energy" album and that it was great. The whole album was really good, with "Green was Beautiful" and "Groovin' on The Groomers" as the other standouts.
The other album was "Delusion Rain" from the prog rock band Mystery. Yeah. I just am not into that type of music. Lots of high pitched male vocals, loud guitar and bass-heavy drums. Plus the songs are SOOOO long. "The Willow Tree" clocked in at 19'29", for crying out loud! To be fair, I did find myself getting into the beat on "The Last Glass of Wine" but six tracks taking over an hour is hard to get through, for me at least.
I was able to try three new beers this week, bringing my total number of check-ins on Untappd to 722.
Beer #720 was the Imperial Stout with Coffee from Blindman. I have extolled the virtues of this Lacombe-based brewery many times, and this was another solid offering. It had good flavor and aroma. Not as much coffee flavor as I expected though, but it was smooth and tasty. At 11% ABV, the 250 mL can size was a good idea. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #721 was another Alberta beer. Blind Enthusiasm did a sour based on plums aged in oak casks. The result was a very colorful and nicely tart beer that was easy to drink for a sour, but I wish it would have had more fruit flavor. It was good, but I was hoping for something more pronounced. (3.25 / 5)
Last up was a bit of a nostalgia trip for Beer #722, and the third Alberta beer of the week. We spent time at the Jasper Gates resort this past summer, which is a few steps from the Folding Mountain brewery. So in remembrance of that good time spent with some friends, I picked up their Founding MTN Lager and dropped off a few cans at our friends' house before a long Zoom call with them. This was a good lager, with a nice maltiness and a bit of spice as well. It was definitely good, but the memories and time on the call friends certainly did not hurt the rating. (3.5 / 5)
There was only one new word this week. I guess Mma Ramotswe's life lessons did not extend also into vocabulary.
Greetings from a cold, icy, and slightly snowy 53.5° north latitude. It was cold enough that I did not feel like going outside this week, and other than taking the garbage out on Wednesday and the recycling on Thursday, I stayed inside from Sunday to Saturday.
It was a pretty quiet week, with the focus on reading, music, and watching a few YouTube channels. There was one new beer and a new coffee, one book finished, and a handful of new words. Like I said, pretty quiet.
Book #4 for 2021 was "L is for Lawless", the twelfth book in the Kinsey Millhone series and the second book in 2021 that I have read from that series. L was a good book with a different feel and pacing from the first eleven in the series. This is likely due to the fact that Kinsey spent most of the story outside of California, and I cannot remember her spending much time outside of about ten miles from her home in the first ten books. She did venture to San Francisco in K so maybe author Sue Grafton was feeling trapped by keeping her protagonist confined to a small town. I also note that Grafton lived in Louisville, which is a location in the last part of L, so maybe there was a desire to write about her home town.
I am now essentially half-way through the series. These are easy books to read and I imagine that I will finish them all, but I doubt I will read them so soon in succession as I did K and L. Two Kinsey books in one month was a bit much, even if they are enjoyable reads.
Lots of music this week, with four artists and five albums in the Music Finds playlist.
First up was the Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk album I mentioned last week. Honestly, I was expecting more from this duo. The album starts out super strong with "Evidence" and Blakey killing it on the drums and Bill Hardman doing likewise on the trumpet. The rest of the album was good, don't get me wrong, but I was hoping for so much more.
Next were two albums by Nick Cave. The first one was his "Live from KCRW" album, which did not really resonate. The second, "The Boatman's Call" was much better. I thought the first half was superb, but I lost interest in the second half. There was too much melodrama and ennui to sustain me for nearly an hour.
The third artist was Robohands, a project of London musician Andy Baxter, and the album "Shapes". The whole album was good and "Leaves" and "Ikigai" were outstanding. I am definitely going to queue up more from Robohands in the future.
Last up was a Finnish psychedelic metal band called Jess and Ancient Ones. I gave their 2015 album "Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes" a couple listens in an attempt to force myself out of my comfort zone. I surprised myself by quite liking the album, especially "The Equinox Death Trip" and "Crossroad Lightning". The final song on the album, "Goodbye to Virgin Grounds Forever" is 22'35" long and would be a great song to listen to at the end of the evening at the Edmonton Folk Fest. Their Wikipedia entry lists the lead singer as Jess, no last name. Their vocals were very reminiscent of Grace Slick and early era Jefferson Airplane.
And finally, Phil Collins turned 70 this week and Tidal had focus on his music. I was, am, a big fan of his music so listening to some of his music with Genesis or his solo material was a great reminder of what a talented musician he is. Check out this article from Tidal and the link to a Phil-Collins-as-Drummer playlist.
Just one new beer this week, and it was unfortunately a disappointment. Beer #719 was the Radio the Mothership Imperial Double IPA from Collective Arts. This is highly bitter beer with an IBU rating of 100, and with a high ABV of 8.5%. I am a big fan of Collective Arts, and I think they are one of the best brewers in Canada. My average rating for the 16 check-ins I have for Collective Arts in my Untappd profile is 3.53, which is a fair bit higher than my overall average of 3.36. Like I said in the opening sentence though, this one was a disappointment.
I got a lot of peppery pineapple in the taste and it was quite carbonated, much more so than I would have expected in an Imperial. It did have a nice haziness and color, but the aroma was off somehow. I did have two cans of this and my experience was similar for both so unless it was old outdated stock, I recommend a pass on this beer. (3.0 /5)
I got a treat this week on the coffee front as I was able to open a new bag of beans. The Espresso Sicilica from Cherry Hill Coffee out of Kelowna. This coffee gives a nice dark espresso with a thick crema and a really nice aroma. The taste is a bit fruity and is definitely more dense than recent beans I have purchased. I bought one bag of this on my own and got another for Christmas, so I suspect I will be drinking this coffee for a couple months.
I have to admit that I am still confused about how much coffee I should be using in my espresso machine. The minimum recommended amount seems to be 17 grams of coffee, but I can barely hit 15 g in my portafilter. Cherry Hill recommends 21 g on their site. I did have an issue with my manual grinder and I have wondered for the past few weeks if my grind was too coarse which was therefore not allowing me to pack enough into the portafilter.
I had to get a replacement shipped out to me last week, and I am happy to say that the grind is significantly better with the replacement. The pictures below tell a story.
There are two grinds in the left image. The coffee in the glass jar was ground with my original Eparé Manual Coffee Grinder (epare.com)Manual Coffee Grinder, and the grounds on the counter beside it are store-ground espresso. You can see how much finer the grind is with the store-ground. After asking a few questions with the customer service team at Eparé, they sent me out a replacement grinder. The image on the right is what the new grinder does, which is quite an improvement. I am happy with the grinder, but I am even happier with the customer service.
There are a decent number of words this week. Some are from recent readings, and the rest are the remainder of the words I flagged while reading War and Peace.
[ uh-lee-juhnt ]
putti (plural noun)
[ex·suf·fla·tion | \ ˌeksəˈflāshən \]
The denizens of 53.5° north latitude welcome you to the weekly blog. Or at least, I welcome you. It was a quiet week, with two new beers and one book finished. There was a lot of music listened to, but I want to get through it all one more time before I make any comments, so we will leave that for next week.
Let's get on with it, shall we?
Racism is ugly, dehumanizing, terrible. Reading about racism is difficult. Owning up to racist comments or actions is gut-wrenching. But talking about racism is absolutely necessary.
It is easy for us Canadians to talk about how terrible things are in the US, with their overtly racist President who presided over them for four years, and how many of their policies and actions are specifically designed to demean black people. So when I read this week's book, Book #3 for 2021, Professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr.'s "Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and its Urgent Lessons for our Own", I tried to reflect on what his book about America says about how Canada has historically, and presently, treats the Indigenous people.
Glaude talks about how the insistence of whites to be included in the future is ridiculous, given that they have never been EXcluded before. The insistence of expecting gratitude for providing rights and freedoms to black Americans is revolting, given that the black people should never have had those right and freedoms stripped from them in the first place. In Canada, this is reflected in how we have parceled out tiny bits of land for the Indigenous peoples and expected them to be happy that we gave them anything at all.
Glaude also talks about the need for truth and reconciliation, but how important it is that we know and speak the truth before we can reconcile. I was in my mid-thirties before I even HEARD the term "residential school", but at least in Canada we have started to speak the truth to what we have done. "Begin Again" highlights the lie and illusion of The American Dream and The Promised Land, both of which hide the truth of the racism in America.
The cries of "what about us" and "all lives matter" from whites underscores how distorted the racist view is. It is not that ONLY black lives matter, it is that THEY NEVER HAVE MATTERED in the eyes of so many people. The same could be true about how Indigenous people are viewed in Canada. As Glaude puts it:
... as if talking about a living wage and healthcare as a right, or affordable education, or equal pay for women, or equal rights for the LGBTQ community, or a fair criminal justice system, somehow excludes working-class white people.
Later in the book, Glaude discusses how Trump fits in to today's conversation about race and equality. The important point is that Trump "and his ideas are not exceptional." In other words, admit that America is racist. Admit that this hatred and demeaning of an entire population is a founding principle of America. Trump and "the people who support him are just the latest examples of the country's ongoing betrayal" of the promise of a true and equal democracy.
In Canada, the discussion a few years ago about what to do with the statues of Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, pointed out the brutality and cruelty of pretty much every white person in the mid 1800's. This article highlights some of the amazing and awful things done in the name of progress in Canada's earliest days. We are not much better than our neighbors to the south.
I encourage you to read this book, whether you are an American looking to understand your country, a Canadian looking to understand yours, or just someone trying to understand the world in order to start the work in building a better world.
Baldwin's words that Glaude used to title his book are the signal we need. It is not about looking in the past to demonize or glorify, but rather to look to the future and to Begin Again.
It was a decent week for riding. The time in the saddle is increasing, even as the distances decrease. Colder weather means slower speeds. Earlier this morning I went out for a one-hour ride in the -19° C weather and only averaged 15.7 km/hr due to the cold temperature. However, getting out a few times in the cold is more psychologically bolstering than it is a cardio boost.
I was able to complete the segment to Clearwater, B.C. Looking up interesting information on Wikipedia did not reveal too much, which is not surprising given the municipality only became official in 2007 and there are just over 2,000 people there. The one fact of note is that the hospital is named after John Sebastian Helmcken, a physician and politician that was key to negotiating British Columbia's entry into the Dominion of Canada in 1871.
Below is the updated image of my progress. I am unlikely to make it all the way to Blue River in this upcoming week, but Valemount (with a U) beckons in the distance.
Two new beers this week, one a pleasant surprise and one a disappointment. I will highlight the pleasant surprise first.
Beer #717 was the Lemon Lavender Radler from Yukon Brewing. Yukon is a brewery that I should pay more attention to. This radler was fantastic and I really, really liked it. It was sweet but not cloying, had nice citrus without the pith, and a smooth taste that was very refreshing. It was the highest rated beer in a long time. (4.0 / 5)
If I were asked to bet last week which beer I would like more before trying these, I would have swapped things around. Lemon and lavender does not sound that appealing to be honest, and the previous drinks from Fallentimber were all really good. Beer #718 was their Hopped Mead. I thought it tasted a bit burnt, and was not nearly as good as their other meads. I also realized that I have never checked in their Meadjito which is superb, so I will buy that again to grab a photo and a checkin. Not every product from a brewery, or in this case a meadery, is going to be perfect of course. One low rating should not take away from how good the rest of their product is. (3.0 / 5)
I will close out this week's entry with a few new words, most of which are from my ongoing catch-up of the words I flagged in 2020 as I read "War and Peace".
Greetings from 53.5° north after a relatively boring week, at least in comparison to the previous one. This week was filled with reading, riding, and work, with the added milestone of being caught up on The Mandalorian. I have to hand it to Disney. Mando was such a well-done series with a great mix of comedy and tension. Plus the return of Boba Fett, Bib Fortuna, and Luke Skywalker did not hurt of course.
I am actually interesting in watching the upcoming Star Wars content coming out on Disney+, and this coming from a lifelong fan who had seriously soured after "Solo" and "The Rise of Skywalker".
Enough geeking out. Time to get on with the rest of the update for this week.
Book #2 for 2021 was "Cibola Burn", the fourth book in the Expanse series by James S. A. Corey. There are a lot of reasons why I like the Expanse series. Certainly the action is good and the implications of humanity spreading out throughout the solar system and beyond is always fodder for interesting thoughts and speculations. However the best reason to read the series is that the good guys always win. Someway, somehow, they get things to work, but not with a macho, lone wolf bullshit trope, and not with some deus ex machina intervention. They do it with love and an undying loyalty for each other. They are highly principled people, even Amos who could be considered a killer, and the clarity their principles give them drive the forward to do the right thing and ultimately to be successful. Definitely recommend the series if you are interested in science fiction, space exploration, and humanity.
It was a good week in the saddle. As I mentioned before, the distance I am traveling is not great but I am happy with what I am doing for the distance I am riding. I rode for just over 69 km this week but got some killer hills in and some good top end speed, which feels really good on my heavy winter bike with studded tires.
From a milestone point of view on my cross-Canada virtual tour, I made it to Barriere, British Columbia. As I virtually ride north on Highway 5, Barriere is the first settlement of note north of Kamloops. According to Wikipedia, Barriere only became an incorporated settlement in 2007, even though it has been home to the Simpcw people for thousands of years. The other interesting note I could find is that Barriere is at the same latitude as Stonehenge, so they have erected a scaled-down replica in tribute.
Here is the updated progress chart. I should be able to easily make it to Clearwater next week.
I wrote about 250 words for all of the great music that I found this week, but then Weebly went and screwed up on me and the whole section was lost. Instead of trying to redo it all, I will give a quick summary.
I had four new beers this week and either they were all not very good, or I am just in a phase where I am not liking beer. These beers seemed average at best and two of them were definitely below average.
Beer #713 was the Fat Sherpa porter from Establishment Brewing in Calgary. It came highly recommended and my community on Untappd really liked it. I found it a bit smoky but did not really enjoy it. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #714 was Father John's Winter Ale from Howe Sound. This was very aromatic but bland tasting. The winter spices did not really come through for me. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #715 was another from Howe Sound. The Megadestroyer Imperial Licorice Stout got points for originality but again I was not overly impressed. The initial shock from the licorice taste did pass quickly but there are many other Imperial Stouts that I would recommend before this one. (3.25 / 5)
I have now had three beers from Howe Sound and they are averaging 3.06. I think that is enough of a sample to give them a pass next time I come across them.
Last up for Beer #716 was the Sour Citra from Les Trois Mousquetaires out of Quebec.I picked this up thinking it was a Sour Cherry beer so it was a bit disappointing. Nice pithy taste, but the sour was just there and not really part of the beer. To be fair, I might have been a bit biased since I was looking forward to a sour cherry beer. (3.0 / 5)
The first word in the list of new words for this week is right from the title of the book I finished. A few others come from that book and others come from my catch up work with War and Peace.
Greetings from 53.5° north. Another busy week with all of the COVID support work for the day job, interspersed with a few good rides, some good beer, and good music.
While I cannot, and will not, complain about my life, it is is remarkable how much it has shrunk. I went out today to buy a few groceries and it was the farthest I had been from my house in over a week, bike rides excepted. That might not seem like a big deal, but the grocery store is 1900 m from my house. I am reaching out virtually farther from my house to connect with others than I ever have, but more and more, I am not physically reaching out. I have to wonder if I will be able to connect in person if this continues for another year.
But then again, maybe connecting in person is not something that I really want to do. There was some nasty business years in the making at the US Capitol, and close to home there were pro-Trump rallies. I really do not understand this. Trump is American and we are Canadian. What will a protest in Red Deer, Calgary, or anywhere in Canada do to help support any attempts to overturn the US election? My guess is that those protests were less about Trump directly and more about white solidarity.
I will leave that discussion for now at least and post this image. Imagine being a black police officer looking at that mob.
It was a good week in the saddle. I cycled for 72 km this week, putting my monthly total at 101 km. More importantly, at least with respect to my virtual cross-Canada tour, I finished the leg from Vancouver to Kamploops. I have now cycled 863 km since I started keeping track in pursuit of the virtual tour.
Next up is Kamloops to Valemount. Just an FYI as it was news to me that it is "Valemount" and not "Valemont". This third leg will be 322 km and only has four segments. If you have driven this stretch of highway, you know there are very few towns and settlements along the way. Lots of great scenery, but that is it.
Some fun facts about Kamloops according to Wikipedia. The population of the census metropolitan area is over 100,000 people. The word Kamploops is the anglicized version of the Shuswap word "Tk'əmlúps", meaning "meeting of the waters". Kamloops is technically in a desert, and average temperatures for this time of year are just above freezing. The regional airport in Kamploops has the airport code of YKA.
The images below are the updated chart of the legs and segments to date, and a map view of the next leg to Valemount (with a U, remember that!).
The last few weeks have really seen me get into jazz. This week that trend continues with a bit of journey into swing and R&B.
The first find in the Music Finds playlist this week was the album "HH" from Lionel Loueke. HH is short for Hang Up Your Hang Ups. I assume that at least since Hang Up Your Hang Ups is the first song on the album. Loueke is a jazz guitarist from Benin and I love his style. The HH track I mentioned above, Cantaloupe Island, Watermelon Man and more are all really good songs. I added the songs and the album to my Tidal favorite list so looking forward to seeing more from him and seeing his music influence my feed.
The second find was the album with the journey into swing and R&B. "Last Man on Earth" by Big Boss Man is a fifteen-track album with great guitar, a bright horn section, vocals from multiple guest artists, and a nice clean percussion in the background. I favorited a third of the album so I will definitely be listening to more from Big Boss Man in the future. Note that this was a 2014 recording, so new to me but not new.
Two new beers this week, both from Alley Kat. First up and coming in as Beer #711 was the latest in their Dragon Double IPA series, the Loral Dragon. This one had a striking amber color and had a nice maltiness. I found the taste had a bit too much pepper in it which took away from the malt and the hops. Still pretty good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
The second beer and coming in as Beer #712 was their 2020 Holiday beer. This year Alley Kat brewed up a Milk Stout which was a nice change. There was a nice creaminess in this as you would expect from a milk stout but it could have used a bit more flavor. I compared it to the Situation Iconic Milk Stout which I rated at 4.0 out of 5 and this was close but not as good. As with the Loral, still pretty good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
I was going to catch up on a few words I have flagged in War and Peace, but I thought it would be appropriate to only have one word this week. If there was anything good out of the US Capitol Insurrection, it was that I learned a new word watching the news reports. Many of the media reports discussed how Trump had "fomented" the rioters. Apparently you can foment or ferment discord and rebellion, but you cannot forment it (with an r) as forment is not a word.
Happy 2021 from 53.5° north!
I took last week off from writing as I needed time to rest, recharge, and reflect. It seems everyone else had the same thought, especially in regards to reflecting. A lot of content crossed my feeds about how crappy 2020 was, how glad we can be that it is finally over, and that better things are ahead.
I have multiple problems with those statements and the underlying attitude that creates statements like that. First of all, it is not guaranteed that 2021 will be any better and I am concerned that people are setting themselves up for a great disappointment. Second, not everything was bad in 2020 and it is important to recognize the good instead of simply bemoaning the bad.
The following text was something I sent to a person I got to know somewhat in 2020, somehow who I have followed online for a long time. The pandemic and the disruption to our lives was terrible, not mentioning the impact to human life across the world. However, I was able to take some solid positives out of the past year, and I hope this helps you reflect on your year more positively as well.
2020 was the year that I was able to connect with people from London to Toronto to Perth to Boston to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Seattle to Vancouver to Hawaii. The very fact that I needed to be in my home office allowed me to (forced me to?) reach out and connect. It was not the same people every day. It was new people and new experiences. Granted it was not traveling to meet face to face, but the only way to meet with someone seven time zones away one day and another person four time zones the other way the next was to do this virtually. 2020 gave me that opportunity and for that I am grateful.
As 2020 came to a close, news outlets, consulting groups, social media networks, independent journalists and pretty much every other organization came out with a summary of 2020, and of course the focus of many of these summaries was COVID. Two that I really enjoyed were from Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey. I featured the McKinsey charts on changing leadership behaviors from McKinsey a few weeks back. The one chart that really staggered me was the one about how many children are now learning from home. See the image below.
In other news, the cybersecurity industry was stunned by the extent of the SolarWinds breach. From a day-job point of view, I have read a lot about this and have a good understanding of what this means. I also have some information that is probably circulating in the CISO circles globally but is not public knowledge. In addition, I have a few subscription services that I could reference, but those are behind paywalls. As a result, I will stick to information in the public domain.
One consistently good source of analysis regardless of topic is Lawfare. In this post, the timeline of the attack is discussed. It is vital to understand that this is not something that was done, discovered, and remediated in a few weeks or months. This was an attack that was planned and executed years ago, and was executed with serious skill.
Thus, SolarWinds can be understood as the result of the operational success achieved three and a half years ago. --Dr. Richard J. Harknett, Lawfare
Even if we could wave our magic wands and remove the affected versions of the SolarWinds software, the scope and scale of the access this breach provided means we will be working to remediate for years. It is not hyperbole to say that we might never know the impact and cost associated with this breach. I am sure I will have more to say about this in the future.
I had a goal in 2020 to read 52 books, or one a week. I hit a terrible reading drought in September but still ended up with 48. I had to finish four of those books in the last ten days of the year, but a book read is a book read regardless of when it is read.
Book #45 for 2020 was "The Great Hunt" by Robert Jordan, the second book in the Wheel of Time series. I finished the first book in the series back in September and was really glad I read the second book. I have had issues with the length of the series and a few of the gender stereotypes but I think this read of The Great Hunt helped clarify what Jordan was trying to do with his characters. Yes, the brooding-emotionally-distant-male and feisty-but-emotional-female tropes do exist, but the characters do have depth beyond the stereotype. I am glad I re-read this and am looking forward to the third book in the series.
Book #46 was the sixth and final book in the FunJungle series, "Tyrannosaurus Wrecks". My younger daughter and I read all six books in the series in 2020, and I said in late November I was not sure that I needed to finish the series. However, the final book in the series popped up as a loan from the library and so we decided to plow through it. In the end, it was an enjoyable book, and a great series, and I am glad we read it together. But six YA books in one series in a year was a bit much.
Book #47 was the Tolstoy classic, "War and Peace". I started reading this on January 1, 2020, and finished it on December 31, 2020. I did not read a chapter a day as I suggested a year ago, but I did follow along with the Reddit book group for a large portion of the year. This was a book that made me think a lot, and I think that reflection was worth the 1224 pages and 366 days of reading. There is probably an entire long form post about War and Peace, but I am not sure I could say anything that has not already been said. Let's leave it at the fact that I am glad I read it.
Book #48 and the final book for 2020 was "Wyrd Sisters", the sixth Discworld book from Terry Pratchett. I really wanted another Rincewind book as I find him a wonderful if hapless protaganist, but the Witches were really interesting characters - funny, intelligent, completely stupid, all at the same time. I am looking forward to reading at least a couple more in this series in 2021.
And finally, we need to get into the books for 2021. Book #1 for 2021 was "K for Killer" the eleventh book in the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton. This was a really enjoyable story with a few gasp-worthy moments and a decent enough story to keep me up late two nights in a row. The elapsed time in the book was less than a week, so the story moved along quite quickly, and that kept me reading. It was not the tumultuous ending that some of the other Millhone / Grafton novels have had, but in a way that made this one more satisfying.
With that book started and finished in the first three days of the year, I am on pace to read 121 books in 2021. I probably will not get quite that many, but you never know what the year will bring.
I felt pretty good about my cycling in the last two weeks, even though I only rode for 112 km. The fact that I am getting out is part of it, but my rides are getting more challenging. It feels good to push myself up a hill, especially on a heavy, old bike with studded tires in the middle of winter.
I finished the segment to Merritt and am twenty per cent of the way to Kamloops. According to Wikipedia, Merritt has a population of about 7,000 people, with an economy focused on ranching, farming, forestry, transportation, and tourism. Being only 87 km to Kamloops and 270 km from Vancouver, it is probably close enough to other centers to have what it needs and far enough away to remain a small town and close community, but honestly on the drive to the coast, it has never been more than a pit stop for me.
Looking at this entry, it might seems like lots of new beers in the last two weeks. However, five beers in fourteen days is a new beer every 2.8 days which is only a bit faster than my pace since I started logging on Untappd. (For the record, my pace is one new beer every 2. 98 days) The five beers this fortnight were a dark ale, a strong ale, a scotch ale, a sour, and an IPA. Definitely winter beers in that selection.
Beer #706 was the Squid Ink Cascadian Dark Ale from the Olds College Brewery. Not bad, a bit bland but I think that was by design - a dark ale without the big booziness or powerful flavors of a winter stout. Decent enough to drink the four pack, and happy to support our local great agricultural college and brewmaster program. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #707 was the Hot Summer Nights IPA from SYC Brewing in Edmonton. This was a really good beer. There was a lot of juiciness, and the hops were strong but not overpowering. Easy to drink fast but watch out for the relatively high ABV for an IPA. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #708 was another 2020 Alberta Beer Week Unity brew. This one was led by Railyard Brewing out of Calgary. A decent beer with a lot of flavor. Seemed a bit flat but might have just been my can. I will look out for other beers from Railyard after this one. (3.25 / 5)
The fourth beer in the last fortnight was another Alberta brew. Beer #709 was the Haskap Aromatica Sour from Odd Company Brewing in Edmonton. I really wanted to like this one more than I did. Great color and aroma. The flavor seemed a bit off though, but that might have been because it was not cold enough. (3.0 / 5)
The last beer in the fortnight was from British Columbia. Beer #710 was the Hopraiser West Coast IPA from Howe Sound. Howe Sound is a brewery, a brewpub, and an inn in Squamish. Sounds like my kind of place. Back to the beer, the Hopraiser was not bad. It had a fair bit of hops and a fragrant aroma. Got a bit of malt in the taste but other than that, it was a bit bland. (3.25 / 5)
Lots of new words this week, partly due to all of the reading and partly due to the fact that I am catching up on all of the flagged words from War and Peace over the year.
Greetings from 53.5° once again. What's new, you ask? I suppose anything that will get registered here is less new and more of an extension of previous weeks. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when the country is in pandemic lock-down.
In addition, it is holiday time right now, or at least holiday-lite time. There is so much going on at work that I will get some time off, but certainly not the next two full weeks as I had hoped. While the amount of work is overwhelming, it is important work and keeping that in mind helps me get through the intense hours and multiple competing priorities.
Before I get into the regular sections, I want to highlight a podcast that helped me with understanding the appeal of Trump. The November 20 episode of On The Media from WNYC had a segment titled "The Ancient Heresy That Helps Us Understand QAnon". Having a roommate in university and a friend for the last twenty-five years who both studied religion in university gave me some awareness of Gnosticism. At a very high levels, gnostics value their own personal experience over the authority of experts and institutions.
You could listen to that segment, but it is likely that last sentence perfectly explains for you Trump and Trump's followers. My summary: Do not trust the experts (deep state) because only I (Trump) have the real knowledge. Search for the knowledge yourself and come to your own conclusions (flat earth, QAnon, etc.)
Call me a pessimist, but after listening to the segment and in particular the quote from the segment below, I do not think there is an easy path forward.
... when you take the red pill and you see the true nature of reality past the institutions and so on, that's an epiphany. I think, for those who really been red pilled, who have been born again into this Trumpian Gnosticism, there is no reason to let go. And anything that we would suggest as proof will become to them proof of our deception. And that makes for a dangerous situation that the best case scenario is going to simmer and simmer for a long time if it doesn't boil over. --Jeff Sharlet
With under a fortnight to go in 2020, I am doing what I can to get my reading total for the year over 50. I am confident I will hit 48 for sure, and 49 is looking pretty good. 50 or more will be tough though, especially if I have to work more than a day or two before New Year's.
Book #44 for 2020 was "The Better Mousetrap" by Tom Holt. Holt was an author I had no visibility on until this last year and we bought three or four of his books at used books stores and EPL book sales. The Better Mousetrap was an interesting book about two people drawn to each other, a magical world living out of view of most of the world, time travel, and insurance. It would be hard to give any sort of plot synopsis in under 250 words that would not spoil the book so I will not even try. I will just say that it was a good book and I am looking forward to diving into Holt's other books.
The weather was pretty good this week which allowed for some longer rides and faster times on those rides. I am still nowhere near the weekly distance of the most dedicated cyclists I know, but most of them these days are spending their saddle time indoors on Zwift and I am hammering out the kilometers through the snow and ice. I suppose I can claim a modicum of moral superiority for that fact, even though I know their fitness levels are way above mine.
I did make it to Hope in my cross-Canada virtual tour. According to Wikipedia, Hope is the easternmost point on what is called the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, which accounts for the average temperature this time of year being 3.5°C. It is also a meeting point, being the confluence of the Fraser and Coquihalla rivers, and the Coquihalla and Crowsnest highways. The Stó:lō First Nations peoples settled in that area between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, and were nearly wiped-out by smallpox in 1782.
Here is an update of my progress chart for the virtual tour.
Work got in the way of diving into the Art Blakey album I had queued up in the Music Finds playlist for this week, but I did give the new album by Kid Cudi a few listens this week. It is pretty clear that "Man on the Moon III: The Chosen" is not my typical music. The picture on the home page of my Tidal app caught my attention and after reading Kid Cudi's bio, I thought I would give it a listen. There were a few songs that I did not like of course, but that is the same as on any album I listen to. Of the eighteen tracks, most were good and "Else's Baby Boy (flashback)" and "The Void" were particularly good. Some of the other songs were musically great even if I could not get into the lyrics. Standouts in that category include "Rockstar Knights" and "Sad People".
I am glad I dug into this album. I will seek out more albums by Kid Cudi and maybe the likes on the songs on this album will help suggest new albums and artists that are out of my regular rotation.
Just one new beer this week, although you could reasonably expect that I would have had more based on my last Visa bill.
Beer #705 was the Dandy Lager from Dandy Brewing out of Calgary. Dandy is a great brewery that has interesting and unique beers. I have checked in three from them so those are the only ones I have evidence for, but looking at their beer list it is clear I have had others that I have not checked in.
The Dandy lager was a bit hazier than expected for a lager, but quite good. A bit of citrus. Nice and crisp. Definitely worth having again. (3.75 / 5)
I dug into a new coffee this week, happily moving past the Salt Spring Metta Espresso that was thin and bland. The Cliff Hanger Espresso from Kicking Horse has a glossy, black bean and much more taste than the Metta. I am not super happy with the flavor though. The packaging mentions cocoa and fruit flavors and I think it is the cocoa that I am not fond of. A couple months ago, I mentioned the Old School Espresso from 49th Parallel and I indicated that I liked the cocoa flavor, so maybe it is not cocoa that is the problem, but the amount of cocoa in the flavor.
Also of note are the gloss on the beans. Like the 49th Parallel beans, the Cliff Hanger beans from Kicking Horse are quite glossy as compared to the matte finish of the Metta from Salt Spring. In addition, 16 grams of these beans completely fills my espresso portafilter and it took 18 grams with the Metta. I need to play with the amount of beans to grind because the Kicking Horse site suggests using 18 to 21 grams.
I will keep track of the next few coffees but I think I am settling on glossy beans with a bit of cocoa as components of the winning formula.
Two new words this week. I think we should all celebrate the winter solstice (tomorrow) but am willing to debate that suggestion.
[sab·bat | \ ˈsa-bət]