Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. This past week was filled with beer, cycling, writing, and work. On top of all that, it snowed on Saturday which I suppose should not be surprising given that it is still early April.
Before we get into the regular sections of this week's blog, I want to highlight two different items. First up, let's talk about work. The most memorable work item from the past week is clearly the launch of Wave 3 of the Connect Care Clinical Information System. This is a smaller wave from the point of view of number of users, but is huge from a geography point of view. Covering the western half of the North Zone of Alberta, Connect Care went live in 31 sites. Launching a new system across that many users covering that much territory is a great accomplishment and everyone should be very proud of their collective success.
The other item I want to highlight before getting on to the regular sections is The Uncensored Library. This is an effort from the organization Reporters Without Borders to use the universal appeal of Minecraft to get around censorship and oppression towards journalists. From the website, the goal is to provide "access to independent information to young people around the world through a medium they can playfully interact with. Journalists from five different countries now have a place to make their voices heard again, despite having been banned, jailed, exiled and even killed."
I think this is a wonderful initiative, and in theory could actually reach a number of youth around the world. It is unclear how many people will actually reach out to download the particular Minecraft map and explore the information in it, particularly because it is only available on the Java edition. I did not understand why it would be exclusive to Java, but then I came across this explanation:
Unfortunately there are no plans to convert to Bedrock. Although there's a huge audience there, it's very difficult to share Bedrock content without going through the Minecraft Marketplace—which this map would not be suitable for,
It was not immediately clear why this map would not be suitable for the Minecraft Marketplace. My assumption is that the it would be a violation of the Microsoft Store Policies, in particular Section 11.10 Country/Region Specific Requirements. That section specifically calls out "providing or enabling access to content or services that are illegal under applicable local law". Publications of journalists that are censored would be illegal, so I suppose that must be the reason.
It is a bit of a shame of course as the Bedrock version of Minecraft has a larger and expanding user base, where the Java user base is decreasing. If nothing else though, this project has an opportunity to raise awareness on an important issue. Please consider donating to RSF at this link.
I was able to complete the short, first segment in Leg #4 from Edmonton to Elk Island National Park in my virtual cross-Canada. I still have a few hours to get another ride in today, but given the frozen ice on the road from the spring snow on Saturday chances are I am done for the week. Here is the updated chart.
Looking at the chart, I will easily reach Vegreville next week and have a chance of getting through to Lloydminster in two weeks. More likely though will be that I will not pass Lloydminster until the week of April 26 but will be on my way to Saskatoon that week.
In the meantime, here are a few fun facts about Elk Island courtesy of Wikipedia. As far as national parks go, it is the eighth smallest, which makes me wonder how small the seven other smaller parks are. Having been to Elk Island man times in my life, I can confirm that it is definitely small. However, it is the largest fully enclosed national park in Canada, mainly due to the need to pen in the large amount of wood bison in a park with a major national highway running through it. Wood bison are the largest terrestrial mammal in North America, and Elk Island is also home to the smallest terrestrial mammal in North America, the pygmy shrew.
To give some perspective, here is a picture of a wood bison on the road into Elk Island a few years ago. I am sure that bad boy's head was too big to fit in the window of our car and he would have had to bend his neck down to do so, if he was so inclined.
Three new beers this week coming from breweries across Canada.
First up and coming in as Beer #746 was the Good as Gold Dortmunder Lager from SYC Brewing here in Edmonton. This was a fine example of the style with a really nice balance of malt and tang. The taste was fairly understated, but that is consistent with the style. I am not a huge fan of textbook lagers, as maybe the flavors are too nuanced for me. That said, I was able to appreciate how well this was put together, and for what it was, it was quite good. (3.5 / 5) If you are looking for a good brewery to dig into, try SYC. I have tried four of their beers to date and they are averaging 3.6. (Technically, 3.625 for those of you that are as pedantic as me.)
Beer #747 was a super IPA from Collective Arts, their IPA No. 16. The elderflower was a nice add, not something I think I have had in a beer before. There was some nice tartness from the grapefruit without the annoying pithiness that often comes with citrus. Nice color and hazy without suspended sediment. (3.75 / 5)
Last up and Beer #748 was a collaboration headed up by Ribstone Creek Brewery out of Edgerton. This was a nice yeasty white with multiple flavors. Orange for sure, maybe pineapple or banana. Both of those last two were pretty faint. Nice head and color and a really sweet aroma. I am really glad that Ribstone is back in my rotation. They are a bit geographically outside the brewing corridor in Alberta and it would be great for them to stick around and prosper. This beer was a good sign. (3.5 / 5)
Seven new words this week, with the first two coming from the Churchill book, The Splendid and The Vile. After this week, there are still six new words coming from that book. The other five this week came from a book I am reading from Michael Pollan that should be complete next week.
Greetings and well met. 53.5° north latitude welcomes you both from this blog and as the latest destination in my cross-Canada virtual cycling tour. The week was also witness to the completion of one book and the consumption of three new beers. No new words were logged, but I still have a number to catch up on from my reading of the story of Winston Churchill during the early days of World War II. Diving in commences in three, two, one, ...
I was able to finish one book this week, but it came at the cost of a bit of running around. Book #9 for 2021 was "Pharaohs" by Terry Pratchett, the seventh book in the wonderfully imaginative Discworld series. I had the ebook from my local library and the loan expired with about thirty pages left. I was left to drive to another branch to grab a physical copy so that I could finish it.
Pharaohs is another funny Discworld story, and is nearly completely standalone from the first six books in the series. There is a physical location that is repeated from other novels, but none of the characters have appeared in any of the previous books. This is good in how it fleshes out the world more, but somewhat disappointing because I would love to know what happens to Rincewind or Luggage or the Wyrd Sisters.
Beyond that, this was another good story with numerous laugh-aloud moments. Seven books done in the series, thirty-three to go. I am looking forward to reading each of them and already sad that I know the series is finite.
This morning, I virtually rode into and slightly past Edmonton. In 186 days since I started logging my rides towards the goal of virtually crossing Canada, I have traveled 1681 km over 108 rides for an average of 15.57 km per ride. That is up from the 15.36 km average I posted just last week, so clearly my rides are getting longer.
The following image shows the map of the next leg - Edmonton to Lloydminster. This is by far the shortest leg to date, but I feel Lloydminster is an appropriate goal since it is on the border with Saskatchewan. The first segment to Elk Island National Park is only 53 km, and with the carryover from my most recent ride, I am already 3.6 km done.
The next image shows the progress to date on the first four legs in the virtual tour. Note that the Edmonton - Lloydminster leg shows up as 261 km on Bing Maps as noted above, but the Edmonton - Elk Island - Vegreville - Vermillion - Lloydminster leg with the stops logged along the way comes in at 264 km. I will be going with the larger number for the tour.
Now that I am back on segments that are less familiar (to me) than the leg between Jasper and Edmonton, I will continue the "fun facts" updates for each destination along the way.
I had three new beers this week, all from great Alberta breweries.
Beer #743 was the Cloudburst from Calgary's Cabin Brewing, which was described on the label as "tart blueberry and lemon ale with vanilla and lactose". This was a fantastic beer. The lactose provided a wonderful creaminess which was nicely offset by the tartness. Plus that startling dark red color was wonderful. If Cabin keeps this up, they are going to supplant Collective Arts as my favorite non-Alley Kat brewery. (4.0 / 5)
Beer #744 was the Tumbling Tide Tripel from Dandy Brewing, once again in Calgary. This silky and smooth beer did a wonderful job of hiding the high tripel level ABV of 8.5%. It also had a nice lacy foam and aroma. (3.5 / 5)
Last up and coming in as Beer #745 was the Full Circle Roggenbier from Blindman Brewing in Lacombe. I had no idea what a roggenbier was, so lucky I found this web page that asked "What the Hell is a Roggenbier?". I learned that roggen is German for rye and a roggenbier is a beer brewed with a high percentage of rye malt and a low amount of hops. I really liked the use of rye and the clove added a nice spice that I typically equate with winter stouts but worked really well with this lower ABV beer. From reading the label though, I had no idea who brewed it. (3.5 / 5)
All of the words this week are still from "The Splendid and The Vile" from a few weeks ago. Well, technically there were a bunch of new words in "Pharaohs", but they will all words Terry Pratchett made up.
riven (past participle)
calumniated (past tense) · calumniated (past participle)
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, a part of the world straddling alternate dimensions of eternal spring and eternal winter. Hey, it's nice! Hey, it's snowing! Where did that wind come from?
Beyond suffering through the vagaries of weather, the week was pretty quiet. I have decided to run a game of Tomb of Annihilation for the group of friends I am currently playing Curse of Strahd with. I am contemplating creating a blog with a series of prep session notes for Tomb. If I do, I will post a link here.
On top of the prep work for Tomb, I finished one book, hit the century mark for rides in my cross-Canada virtual trip, and tried two new beers from my favorite brewery. Let's dive in.
Book #8 for 2021 is a re-read of the fifth Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix". This was something my younger daughter and I started reading on January 1 and I am pretty impressed that we ploughed through 764 pages in eighty-five days.
If you have read the series, you will know this is the longest of the seven books and it is definitely the darkest book so far in the series. The lamentable Harry Potter does not have much true hope for the first 7644 pages but I felt pretty good for him at then end.
It is hard to do much of a review of the fifth book in any series without going into significant detail that would spoil the other books in the series. Suffice it to say that this was an emotional rollercoaster. It is also the last Harry Potter book that I have read (or listened to) multiple times. Later this year we will dig into the next book in the series, and I will do so with relatively fresh eyes having not read it for about fifteen years.
I made really good distance this week on my bike, including a ride with my summer bike on Saturday that ended up being a fairly snowy affair after about half way through the ride. No segments or legs were completed this week, but I should be able to finish off the Edson - Edmonton portion next week.
I was comparing cycling notes with my friend Bryan earlier this week and I realized that I was at 100 rides since I started tracking my cross-Canada virtual trip. As you can see in the image, as of earlier this week I had tracked 100 rides for 1535 km. My average ride is over 15 km and I am averaging 8.83 km per day overall. At about 11,000 km if I cover a virtual route to every provincial or territorial capital, I am about 15% done. At the current pace, my entire trip should take me almost exactly two full years.
There were two new beers this week, both from Alley Kat. First up, coming is as check-in #741 was a tribute to Alley Kat founder, Neil Herbst. Neil's Smoked Porter had nice malts and a rich color. There was a bit of smoke without the smoke being overpowering. Slightly more foam would have improved it, IMO. All in all nicely done and a great tribute to the Alley Kat founder and legend. (3.5 / 5)
Second up was the Sabro Dragon, another solid beer in their Dragon Double IPA series. The hop combination had a slightly metallic note, but the aroma and foam were good. The copper color was beautiful. This probably had more obvious hops taste than any recent Dragon. (3.25 / 5)
I thought it was appropriate that I also earned the Untappd "One Billionth Check-in" badge drinking a beer from my favorite brewery.
The new words below are all from my reading of "The Splendid and the Vile", the book that I finished and wrote about last week.
Greetings from 53.5° north. The past week was filled with reading, beer, and cycling, plus a recognition of the need to set weekly goals for words written if I am ever going to complete that proposal for the book I want to write. Tracking progress towards goals and milestones is instrumental for making progress in everything else I do, so I wonder why it took me to this week to realize that for this particular item. I am going to stay silent on the actual content of the book until the proposal is submitted, regardless of whether it is accepted or not, but I will comment on progress on this site.
With that, let's get on with the update - one book read, one segment completed, and two-but-actually-only-one new beers.
Depending on how you count which week we are in 2021, today marks the end of the eleventh or twelfth week of the year. If I am going to read 52 books in 2021, I should have finished eleven or twelve books by now, but I am unfortunately not close to that goal. I have one book in progress that should be done in the next week, plus another that is quite short that should also be done in the next few days. That will still put me below pace though, so I need to get focused.
Book #7 for 2021 was "The Splendid and The Vile" by Erik Larson. I picked this up from the library as I was intrigued by the name, without any idea that it was a historical account of World War II and the coterie around Winston Churchill. There was a lot about Churchill of course, but Larson goes into depth about one of Churchill's personal secretaries, his daughter, his daughter-in-law, his wife, a few close confidants, and to a certain extent, the King.
Showing the quirks of the protagonist's personalities highlighted that as great as these people were, they were just people with hopes, dreams, fears, and ambitions much like anyone else. Churchill was clearly flawed - as we all are - but he was able to work with and around his flaws to lead his nation in a war that was constantly hammering his country. The Nazis thought Churchill's flaws would be Britain's undoing, but I think his flaws shone a light on his humanity, and it was this humanity that allowed his country to rally behind him.
The book was filled with great anecdotes and quotes. I will not share them here for fear of spoiling the surprise. It is a rather long book, but it was a quick read, and highly recommended at that.
I am working on increasing my average distance traveled to 10 km per day. My average ride per trip is over 15 km, which I am happy with considering we are just coming out of the winter months. The daily average overall regardless of whether I rode or not is too low though, coming in at 8.9 km. My goal is to consistently get that above 10 km per day, or 3650 km in a year.
The math behind my averages is as follows: It has been 172 days since I started logging my trips for my virtual cross-Canada tour, and I have traveled 1525 km. By the end of March I will be at the half-way point for a year and should be over 1600 km. However, a half year based on a 10 km per day average would mean 1825 km traveled. Much like my comments about reading and writing, tracking progress is important to keep me on track.
In the last week, I was able to complete the Hinton-Edson segment, and am now about 25% of the way through the Edson-Edmonton segment. At my 10 km day average, I will complete the Valemount to Edmonton leg in two weeks. For now, here is a visual look at my progress.
I was able to try one new beer this week, continuing a streak of disappointment with a favorite brewery. I also happily dug into a new beer from what I thought was a new-to-me brewery and was surprised to find that I had already had that beer.
Beer #740 was yet another from Collective Arts, their IPA No. 15. I was a bit down on Collective Arts after the last few beers so I went into this one somewhat tepid. It was close to being great, so close. It had lots of grapefruit without the drying pith that so many IPAs fail on. Very smooth, but unfortunately it was flat and without much life. If this was not a can, I would have suspected an old keg. Overall a lot of promise but just not quite a winner. (3.25 / 5)
The brewery that I thought was new-to-me was Trolley 5, a brewpub out of Calgary. They have a surprisingly large lineup and I tried their First Crush White IPA on the recommendation from a friend. I quite enjoyed it and was thinking about rating it 3.5 or 3.75 when I logged into Untappd. I first had First Crush in September 2018 and rated it 3.75 at that time. The consistent rating is a good sign that I do not vary in my assessments. Unfortunately though I was unable to claim another check-in, but my personal goal to drink one of every beer in the world is a stretch goal, after all.
So many new words, courtesy of Larson's book on Churchill. A number of the new words were taken directly from quotes from Churchill's minutes and memos that Larson peppered throughout the book. There are too many to address in one week, so I will do about one-quarter of them this week.
machicolations (plural noun)
Greetings from a day-after-daylight-savings 53.5° north latitude. There is still ice in alleys and on some roads and sheltered areas along the paths, but cycling became much more fun this last week. The average speed is increasing to a respectable number for the winter bike with studded tires, and the top-end speed is entering speeding ticket territory.
Beyond boring cycling statistics and a couple beers, there was not much to report this week. There is one follow-up to the Bill C-10 Broadcasting Act changes that I posted four weeks ago. Michael Geist posted an update on his blog this week and lamented that the bill continues to have "no firm thresholds, no rules on intellectual property, no exclusion of news, and nothing on Canadian ownership." Geist blasts the Liberals in his closing paragraph with this doozy of a sentence: "The amateurish release of the bill, the steady stream of blunders, and the absence of details all speak to a Minister and department that want a George W. Bush-like “Mission Accomplished” moment and then to quickly move onto the other issues, leaving the CRTC to clean up the mess."
In case the Liberals do not get their Dubya moment, I will offer this up for them. (As a bonus, read the linked CBS article for a synopsis of the a reminder of that bit of spin doctoring.)
Four new beers were tried this week, but none were homeruns unfortunately. That said, none of them were bad either but since all four beers were from my two favorite breweries, I was disappointed.
Beer #736 was yet another from Collective Arts. This one was their IPA No. 14. I had their IPA No. 12 eleven months ago. While I am on the number theme, this is my seventeenth check-in for a beer from Collective Arts. Back to No. 14, there was lots of citrus and juice but it tasted more like pineapple to me than the grapefruit the label suggested. Lots of juice flavor regardless. The citrus, hops, and malt hid the high ABV nicely. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #737 continued the Collective Arts streak, now up to 18 unique check-ins on Untappd. The Grapefruit and Pomegranate Sour had a great color and aroma. I definitely picked up the grapefruit in this one as opposed to the IPA No. 14 I mentioned above. I did not get much of the pomegranate flavor though and the sour seemed somewhat like an afterthought unfortunately. It was okay, but that's it. (3.25)
Moving from Collective Arts to Alley Kat now. I picked up a four-pack with two different Alley of their latest Back Alley Brews. I am a big fan of their limited run BAB series, in particular the Ocean Pearl and Bob's Your Dunkel were great, so I definitely went into these two with high hopes.
Beer #738 was the Alley Kat Highway to Helles, which I thought was a good pun until I searched on Untappd on got 58 hits. This was exactly what you should expect in a solid German lager. Crisp, clean, and clear. But it is styled after a German lager, which I find pretty dull unfortunately. Points for hitting the style though. (3.25 / 5)
Last up for the week, the sixtieth unique check-in from Alley Kay, and Beer #739 was their Red Demon Red Rice Lager. Definitely sensed the rice as soon as I raised the glass. Reminded me of drinking Japanese rice beers at Nomiya (which made me sad and nostalgic). Good for the style, but I guess I was hoping for more from the last Back Alley Brew. (3.25 / 5)
Greetings once again from 53.5° north latitude. The week that was was a week indeed. Since there was not really a post last week, there is a fair bit to cover this week, at least on the new beers front.
There were a couple interesting items to note before we get to the beer. The first was the result of a conversation with a friend about epidemiology studies spawning from a discussion about PubMed. My friend noted a study from 1984 published in the Journal of Trauma about emergency rooms statistics on injuries caused by falling coconuts. First of all, coconuts falling on heads is apparently a thing and a potentially fatal thing at that. Second, it is interesting to see how the process from a physician with an idea evolves into a research study and eventually into a journaled article. This is possible in 2021 with coding standards such as ICD-10 or ICD-9, but I have no idea how it was done in 1984. I imagine it was much more manual and therefore, at least to me, more impressive.
But the most interesting point of this is how the story changes, morphs, and gets exaggerated. From one article with references to two fatalities, the legend of the falling coconuts grew to where coconuts kill 150 per year and to having coconut trees removed from some Australian beaches. The related Wikipedia article has some interesting information.
The second item is somewhat related. The reason my friend and I were discussing PubMed was that we were discussing whether it was true naporxen was in fact less harmful that ibuprofen, which then led to investigation into NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In our house, we have both Aleve (naproxen) and Advil (ibuprofen) and happened to open a new bottle of Advil this last week. Based on the discussion and research, I was curious to see the list of non-medicinal ingredients in Advil. What I read surprised me.
As per the sheet that comes with Advil, the "important" non-medicinal ingredients (not sure if there are non-important as well) are:
So there you have it. Coconuts are more dangerous than titanium dioxide.
I have read quite a bit in the last two weeks, but have only finished one book. Book #6 for 2021 was "The Reader" by Traci Chee. This book signified the end of an era because it was a book that I started reading together with my older daughter but that we did not finish together as she no longer wants to read together. So there is that. The story was quite good though so I wanted to finish it. As one might expect from a book geared to a teen audience, the protagonists were themselves teenagers and were of course orphaned. However the story was not so filled with YA tropes to be annoying. The adults were nuanced and not completely evil. The kids were scared but also independent and powerful. The part that surprised me was how dark the story was. Not a lot of good things happen and the world in the story is quite harsh.
All in all, this was a good story and worth reading. It is the first book in a series and I am certain I will get to the others in the future.
In the past three weeks, I have completed the first two segments of the current Leg from Valemount to Edmonton. At this point, I have cycled 1390 km since I started logging my trips on my virtual cross-Canada tour. The updated progress image is given below. I am not going to post any fun facts about Jasper or Hinton since they are so familiar to me. I will probably start doing that again once I get past Edmonton.
No new music this week. The music playlist that I am going to share is entitled "Dad's last playlist" and came from him a couple years ago. Like any good playlist, every song has a story. As I explained to a friend earlier this week, when Dad listened to music, he *listened*. Plus he was a drummer when he was younger so if got into a song, he would grab pens or chopsticks or wooden spoons and beat the piss out of an imaginary set of skins to a song like "Devil with a Blue Dress" (song #6 on the playlist). Enjoy the music, and grab your own wooden spoons.
A lot of new beers were consumed in the last fortnight. As you will see in the notes below, I have come to the likely unpopular opinion that Blind Enthusiasm produces only mediocre beer.
Beer #728 was a local beer, the Resolutions 2021 from Bent Stick. This was a really good example of a barleywine. Nice taste without an alcohol burn. Well done. (3.75 / 5)
The next four are from Blind Enthusiasm, a local brewery that gets a lot of love. They have some decent beers, but I have never thought they were worthy of their Alberta brewery of the year award in 2018. Having interesting concepts is important, but so is consistency and quality control.
Beer #729 was their Kook Birds gin barrel-aged ale. This would have been great if it wasn't so overly carbonated (look at those bubbles and foam!). It was super tasty from the gin and really juicy without pithy citrus but I think they need to work on their quality control. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #730 was the Union Bhouys Euro Pale Lager. The description mentions lots of fruit and some malt. I did not get that much fruit from it but I did like the malt. I did pick up a lot of spice though once again, and it was off-putting. Might just be a personal preference coming through. (3.0 / 5)
Next up from Blind Enthusiasm and Beer #731 was their OKT which they call on the label as fruit-forward copper ale. I really liked the taste and color of this one. Good hops without being overly bitter. (3.5 / 5)
The final Blind Enthusiasm for this week and Beer #732 was the Fabhelles Helles Lager. Again, there is something in this beer that I don't like. I don't know if there is a consistent yeast or process step with Blind Enthusiasm that is off-putting to me. It isn't peppery but there is an off taste. Nice maltiness though. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #733 was the last local beer of the fortnight. The 2017 version of the Alley Kat's Olde Deuteronomy was another good barleywine. Another Olde Deuteronomy that makes me wish Alley Kat still produced these. High ABV but not alcohol burn. Great malts and aroma. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #734 was the Żywiec Lager out of Poland. One of the comments for it on Untappd says "Is there a word for "more generic than generic?" and that is pretty accurate. Nothing really stands out but nothing is really wrong with this either. Decent taste, light malt. (3.25 / 5)
Last up for the fortnight and coming in as Beer #735 was the Samuel Smith Welcome Back 2021 ale. This was a nice winter ale with some good background spices and really solid malts that one would expect from a good UK ale. Nice stuff. (3.5 / 5)
I am collecting quite a list of new words on my Kobo that I will add in when I finish my current book. For now, there is just this one word.
[ham·mam | \ hə-ˈmäm \]
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 \]