Greetings from 53.5° north latitude where the days are getting colder and darker.
Speaking of getting darker, tomorrow is the province-wide municipal election, and this year there is a plebiscite on eliminating the time change we deal with every fall and winter. The plebiscite asks whether Albertans would like to eliminate the time change and stay with Daylight Savings Time.
However, that is not the correct way to approach this issue. The first question should ask whether we support eliminating the time change, and if so, the second question should ask if we support Daylight Savings or Daylight Standard. There is ample discussion and evidence that a northern jurisdiction like Alberta should go to Daylight Standard. In one story, Michael Antle, a psychology professor from the University of Calgary says "We've been presented with two bad choices. A bad one and a worse one." Dr. Antle advocates eliminating the time change but says that the move to permanent Daylight Savings is bad for Albertans.
If you are looking for more information on whether Daylight Savings is good or bad for Alberta, look at this chart from Elections Alberta. It seems clear to me that a move to permanent Daylight Savings is the wrong choice for Alberta.
Another CTV News story poses comments about how the plebiscite on the time change is a lure by the UCP to attract voters to the polls so that more people will vote for the binding referendum on equalization. Seems plausible and even likely, which is very unfortunate.
Finally, CBC has a handy page explaining all the different sections on the ballot this year. This page is from CBC Calgary, so it includes their local plebiscite on fluoridation.
I hope this does not come across as self-serving, but I do have one item to share. I completed the Indigenous Canada course from the University of Alberta that is available on Coursera. It is a twelve-week course, with a couple of hours of effort required each week. I found it extremely informative and eye-opening. The course covers topics starting with Indigenous world views and moving to first contact on Turtle Island (take the course if you do not know what that is), the fur trade, the promise and sad reality of the treaties across Canada, government assimilation programs, residential schools, and contemporary activism. I highly encourage everyone to take it so that we can all have better informed conversations about colonization and how to move forward with reconciliation.
I polished off two quick books this week, bringing my total for the year up to 37.
Book #36 for 2021 was "The Secret Adversary" by Agatha Christie. This is the first book in the Tommy and Tuppence series from Christie, and it was quite different from Christie's Hercule Poirot books. One quote I read after finishing the book is that it is a light-hearted romp. The edition I read contained an introduction that explained how the publisher was concerned about releasing this as Christie's second book, as it was so different than "The Mysterious Affair at Styles". After reading this book, I completely understand the points made. It was not a bad story, but it did not have the draw of a more intense novel and is quite a departure from the Poirot novels I have read.
The introduction goes on to say that the five Tommy and Tuppence books would not have been strong enough to stand on their own if not for the strength of Christie's more famous characters, Poirot and Miss Marple.
It is doubtful that any of the five books would still be available today if it weren't for the career of the famous Belgian of the little grey cells or the elderly inhabitant of St. Mary Mead.
A sad reminder that even the monumental achievement of getting published is no guarantee of immortality one generation removed from publication.
Moving on, Book #37 for 2021 was the fourth book in the Murderbot series, "Exit Strategy". It was only a few weeks ago that I read the previous book in the series, and I typically would wait longer between books in a series. However, the hold from the library came in quickly so I dove in this week. Once again, Murderbot is an incredibly enjoyable character and the struggles with its humanity and place in society makes the books worth reading. And on top of that, Murderbot blows up a lot of stuff which is fun to read.
Only one new beer this week as a result of finding a couple 2017 and 2018 Olde Deuteronomy Barley Wines from Alley Kat at Sherbrooke Liquor.
Beer #820 was the Innsmouth Mango Passionfruit Sour from Zero Issue out of Calgary. This is my fifth beer from Zero Issue, but the four previous beers were between April and August of 2018. I quite liked the first four offerings, but this one was sour without any complementing flavor. Maybe I am just tired of sours. Regardless, I will seek out more beers from Zero Issue as there is no reason I have not tried something from them for over three years. (3.0 / 5)
I had a tidy little update completed last weekend but forgot to post it. That means this update is for the past two weeks.
Before getting into the regular sections, the big news from last week's unposted entry was the federal election. In some ways, one might think it was no news at all, since there was little change in the seat tally: the Liberals gained two seats but still have a minority; the NDP and Bloc each gained a seat; the Conservatives lost two seats but still hold sway in Western Canada.
However, it might not be that simple for a few reasons. First, there were ridings that the Conservatives would have won if the People's Party had not split the conservative votes. That would not have won them enough seats to win a minority, but it would have shifted the balance. Second, all parties said they do not want another election so no one will want to be seen as the leader or party that forced Canadians into another expensive, unwanted election. This might mean that Trudeau and the Liberals do not need a majority to act like a majority government.
Here is the non-Mercator map of how the seats distributed after the mail-in ballots were counted.
There were interesting developments locally as well. Two more ridings fell from the Conservatives in Edmonton. Randy Boissonnault was the beneficiary of right-of-center vote splitting in Edmonton Central, and first-time candidate Blake Desjarlais won big in Edmonton Griesbach to become Alberta's only Indigenous MP. Boissonnault is sure to get a cabinet post out of his win, and Desjarlais and NDP colleague Heather McPherson from Edmonton Strathcona will work to build momentum for their party in this term.
Beyond the election, I was able to finish two more books. But before I get to that, have you ever had multiple books on hold at the library, all with different estimated wait times, only to have them ALL come in at the same time? Once again, I ended up this past week with well over 1500 pages of holds with no possible way to finish them all before they are due. Alas, so many books, so little time.
Book #35 for 2021 was "Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers" by Andy Greenburg. This is a journalistic exposé of what the Russian state-sponsored hackers dubbed Sandworm by American cyber researchers have done from Estonia to Ukraine to America. It is utterly terrifying and should be required reading for any policy-maker, corporate leader, or Internet user. In other words, everyone.
Changing gears quite a bit, the next book went back to fiction and a series I quite enjoy. Book #36 for 2021 was "Guards! Guards!", the eighth book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. The previous seven books were all enjoyable, but this was my favorite by far. Pratchett's humor and word play was in full form for the whole novel, and the story produced many real-world laugh-out-loud moments. The Discworld novels can be read in any order so if you have only one Discworld novel in your future, choose this one.
Between mechanical failures and personal injury, I just cannot seem to keep any momentum on my virtual cross-Canada tour. However, even with that, I did manage to complete the Falcon Lake to Kenora segment of the Winnipeg to Thunder Bay leg, and with that, have officially passed into the province of Ontario.
Kenora is not necessarily a town that would be a well-known city seeing it has a population of only about 15,000. However, someone of my age in Canada will surely remember the 1985 PCB spill on the Trans-Canada Highway near Kenora. A bit of ignominy that I am sure Kenora does not deserve, so I was happy to learn some fun facts about the city from the Wikipedia page. First of all, it was first call Rat Portage. Second, it (Rat Portage) is mentioned in Algernon Blackwood's 1910 story "The Wendigo", which is a story that has been on my to-read list for a while. Third, in the vein of so many Canadian towns and cities, it has an oversize sculpture, theirs being a forty-foot version of a muskellunge called "Husky the Muskie". And finally, the Kenora Airport has the IATA code of YQK.
Next stop, Dryden.
Five new beers in the past fortnight, bringing my lifetime total check-ins to 815, four of which were from Edmonton. There is a lot going on in Edmonton's breweries, and some of it is good.
Beer #811 was from Alley Kat's Back Alley Brews limited run series. There have been some really good Back Alley Brews, but unfortunately, the "At's Wits End" witbier was not one of them. It had a light banana taste. Maybe? Couldn't quite make it out due to the unappealing funk that pervaded the beer. (2.5 / 5)
Beer #812 was the "Dissent within the Caucus" sour from Trial & Ale. Trial & Ale is the brewery I mentioned in July that exclusively uses wild yeasts. The yeast in Dissent is called Pediococcus (see what they did there?) which is developed through very long fermentation cycles in oak barrels. The sourness at first drink was super intense, but it was easy to adjust to and enjoy. This process also lends to the dryness of the drink which helped with the desire to keep sampling from the glass. Another interesting beer from Trial & Ale, and another interesting lesson in wild fermentation. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #813 was another learning experience about yeasts. The Odd Company "Mandarina Sour" was made with kveik, which I learned is a family of ancient Norwegian farmer's yeast that is useful for brewing fast-maturing and tropical fruit-accented beers. This particular beer was solid, with nice juicy flavors but was otherwise unremarkable. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #814 was the last of the Edmonton beers, and it was back to Alley Kat for this one. This one was their "Ekuanot Dragon", the latest in their long-running series of Double IPAs. A 7.5% ABV highly aromatic and piney beer, tagged by the brewer as "best enjoyed in summer heat" seems a bit off to me. It makes me wonder if Alley Kat marketed it that way since they released it in June just prior to summer. Regardless, this was decent but not as memorable as some others in the Dragon series. (3.25 / 5)
Last up was my second of the beers I picked up from Almanac out of San Francisco. LOUD was a winner (4.0 / 5), LOVE was quite good (3.75 / 5), and so I went into their "Sabrosa DIPA" with high expectations. Maybe I am just tired of juicy beers, but this one felt underwhelming as I drank it. I am dulled by the amount of pineapple flavors in beers this past year, so I could not get the promised coconut and cantaloupe. Still, it was a beautiful beer, and the aroma was more intoxicating that the drink, so that was something. (3.5 / 5)
Lots of new words this week, but then I realized that most of them were made up, purposeful misspellings by Terry Pratchett in his Discworld novel.
I have not done a real post on this site for three weeks, so there is a bit to catch up on, as I alluded to last week. I finished three books, finished a couple segments on my cross-Canada virtual tour, tried twelve (12!) beers, and compiled a minor list of new words. Let's jump in.
At this point in the year, I should have finished 36 books to be on pace for 52 in a year. I finished three in the last three weeks and will finish another in the next day or so. That will take me to 34 for the year and I have a couple short ones that should get me up to pace.
Book #31 for 2021 was "The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man" by Dave Hutchinson. As you might guess from the title, this is a science fiction book but set in America and not in space. The story follows a journalist given an opportunity to document a particle collider like the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, but much bigger. In the slow build-up, the journalist befriends a disgraced author, strikes up a strangely platonic relationship with a physicist, and writes essentially nothing for his book. And then the book gets very science-fiction-y with explosions and chaos. There are characters introduced that play less of a role than expected, and plot elements that are not satisfactorily closed off. The 25-words-or-less review is that this is a book that is really close to being great, but is still very enjoyable with its flaws.
Book #32 for 2021 was "Third Girl", which is a Hercule Poirot book by Agatha Christie. I recently decided that I want to read all Christie's novels and this one was available in the library. It is one of Christie's latter books, published in 1964 (or 1967, or 1968 depending on which source you look at). Regardless of the year, it is Poirot in the Swinging 60s trying to fit in a London filled with beatniks. His mind and his investigative acumen was still sharp for the novel, but it was interesting watching him struggle with a world that has moved past his mustachioed, Saville Row suit era. I was very confident I had this murdered figured out, and was very happy to find out that I was wrong, and that the solution was elegant and believable. It seems that a Late 60s Poirot still could fit into the world, which of course means that the Late 60s Christie was also still relevant and connected to her world.
Book #33 for 2021 was a re-read of "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince". I read this with my younger daughter, and it was only the second time I read it. I had no recollection of what happened in the book, and it was as shocking to me as it was to my daughter. It was nice to move past the middle of the Harry Potter series and all the annoying teenage angst plot lines. However, Harry is still an annoying protagonist. As my daughter said, the heroes in books are supposed to be characters you cheer for that do things that we could never do, but "Harry is just an idiot". I could not agree more but am still glad for the series and for what they have done to stimulate a love for reading with people everywhere.
I am getting back in the saddle, but I still have not regained the momentum I had before I broke my bike. Even so, I am past Winnipeg and making my way to the Ontario border. Here is an updated progress chart.
The two completed legs were Portage La Prairie and Winnipeg, which closed off Leg #8 from Regina to Winnipeg. The one time I drove to Winnipeg in 1991, I drove the route through Portage La Prairie, but I cannot remember anything about it. That is likely because we drove through the night, and it was probably 06:00 when we passed through. According to Wikipedia, it is exactly half way between the Saskatchewan and Ontario borders, and it was once proposed as an independent Metis state called the Republic of Manitobah. Continuing my fascination with airports, Portage La Prairie is serviced by the Southport Airport, IATA code YPG, former home of Canadian Forces Base Portage La Prairie.
Winnipeg is a provincial capital and home to three-quarters of a million people. A collection of "fun facts" about Winnipeg would take a lot of effort, so I will just post a link to the Wikipedia page. I will comment that I spent January to April of 1996 in Winnipeg, and I absolutely loved the city. That might have had something to do with the fact that I was single and was living on a per diem, and that my condo in Winnipeg was nicer than my apartment in Edmonton. But still, I have many fond memories of my time in Winnipeg.
The next leg is the biggest yet. There are 723 km between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, and this is new territory for me. I have lived in Winnipeg, but never travelled by vehicle east past the city. Toronto, North Bay, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec are all places I have visited in real life, but other than that, everything for the rest of the virtual tour is new to me. Looking forward to the fun facts along the way. Next up, Falcon Lake, Manitoba!
As I said in the intro, I have tried twelve new beers in the past three weeks. This pushes me well past the 800 unique beers mark.
Beer #798 was the Phillips Benefit Brew Forest Citrus Lager. This was very decent. Nicely carbonated with a hint of juice. A Lager with some actual flavor which is great for a lager, and a pleasant surprise from a brewery that I am not keen on. (3.5 / 5)
Remember when Big Rock was a great brewery? It is a faint and distant memory, unfortunately. The downfall was slow and almost unnoticeable until they released their Purple Gas saskatoon berry beer. There has been nothing to look forward to from them since. Beer #799 was their Poolside Grapefruit Lager was no exception. It started out promising as it really smells nice, like a fresh grapefruit. However, the taste was bitter, and it was overly carbonated. Disappointing, once again. (3.0 / 5)
In early August, I mentioned that I tried the Alley Kat 1891 Special Blonde but that it was not available in Untappd. I checked again this week, and it now shows up. I figured it would be appropriate to have an Alley Kat beer show up as a milestone, so I will count that as Beer #800. As I said in early August, it is not that good. (2.5 / 5)
Beer #801 was from Collective Arts, a brewery that I sample from almost as much as I do Alley Kat. Seemed to be more like a hefeweizen / wheat beer than a blonde, but that might be due to the dry hops. It was tasty though, and quite easy to drink. (3.25 / 5)
The next beer comes from the Strathcona Beer Company, which excited me as I thought it was another Edmonton brewery. Alas, they are from Vancouver. Beer #802 was their Mosaic Pale Ale. I am a hops fan, but this was overly hoppy. Or maybe it was just that there were too many competing flavors. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #803 was my second from Tailgunner Brewing out of Calgary. While their Red Magil IPA was pretty good, I liked their Bobby Sox Strawberry Lime Sour more. This had an amazing aroma, and a nice foam. There was more lime flavor than strawberry, but it had a good taste overall. (3.5 /5)
Since there are so many beers this week, I am going to split up the reviews and provide the image for the first six beers here.
Next up was from the Almanac Beer Company out of San Francisco. The fact that Sherbrooke Liquor was carrying Almanac during my last visit was pointed out as a major plus, so I picked up a few singles. Beer #804 was their LOUD! Hazy IPA and it was quite good. Tons of citrus, great aroma, no bitterness. (4.0 / 5)
I have commented twice before on these regular updates that The Establishment Brewing Company out of Calgary has not lived up to its hype from fans. They are now three-for-three in the disappointing column. Beer #805 was their Brighten the Corners Extra Pale Ale, and it was too astringent to enjoy. (2.5 / 5)
Next up was a peach beer, which is something that does not sit well with me, likely due to the horrid peach beer from Stanley Park I had in 2015. [Since that was well before I created this blog, here is the report on the Stanley Park SunSetter Peach Wheat Ale - "The bottle says "natural peach flavors are infused" which I guess means artificial flavors. Tastes fake, smells tinny. Won't repeat.: (2.0 / 5)] However, Beer #806 was the Railyard Brewing Peach Sour, and it was really quite good. Lots of flavor with the sour contrasting nicely with the sweetness of the peach. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #807 was from Foxtail Beer, which seems to be out of Edmonton. I had their Next Chapter IPA which was flavorful and tasty but I could not really place anything particular as a standout marker. Still good, and I will definitely look for others from Foxtail. (3.25 / 5)
Phantom Beer out of Vancouver describes themselves as "Canada's only collaborative craft brewery, merging contract brewing, sales representation and its own proprietary brands into a one-stop, innovative solution for breweries and retailers in an increasingly competitive and difficult-to-navigate market." If I can parse out the various parts of that sentence, that seems like an interesting business model. What about their beer though? Their Mindfuzz IPA was Beer #808 and it was very good. Super flavor, grapefruit without pith, nicely hazy without sediment. Really well done. (4.0 / 5)
Last up was another from Driftwood in Victoria. For Beer #809, I had their Viewfield Brett Saison. A flavorful Brett is sometimes hard to get into with the characteristic funky flavors, and this was no exception. However, the flavors mellowed as I drank the beer. Very aromatic and crisp. (3.5 / 5)
Six new words covering the last three weeks.
Greetings from 53.5° north. It was a pretty quiet week, with all of my time in the saddle stuck in the basement on the stationary bike. Luckily though, I am blessed with great friends, and one lent me a bike. I will be outside on the trails once again starting Monday. Beyond that, there were two books completed, one new beer, and a couple words. Time to jump in.
My focus on reading over the summer is paying off, as I am now on pace to read my target of 52 books this year.
Book #29 for 2021 was "N is for Noose" by the late Sue Grafton. This is the fourteenth book in the Kinsey Millhone detective series, and unfortunately was not one that I really enjoyed. The ending was interesting and a bit suspenseful, but I felt like I wanted the book to end so I could move on to something else. The last few in the series were much better, so hopefully "O" gets back in form. To be fair, N was not horrible, and I will certainly look forward to continuing with the series, but maybe with a bit less enthusiasm that I had going into N.
Book #30 for 2021 was a book I read with my younger daughter. "The Incorrigibles of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling", by Maryanne Rose was a wonderful story about three children literally raised by wolves - or at least, that is what we are lead to believe - and then rescued and housed in the expansion Ashton Place estate. The story takes place post-Dickens, pre-Conan Doyle according to fourth-wall-breaking references in the book. It was quite enjoyable and provided a nice cliff-hanger segue into the second book of the series. I imagine we will read the next book in the series later this fall.
There was just one new beer this week, and it was not good. I remember when Troubled Monk started brewing and I was very excited. A good brewery in Central Alberta was previously unheard of, and their beers were good. Since then though, the best thing to come out of them is their Saskatoon pop. Case in point, their Daycation Lager. As it says on the can, low hops and low malt went into this beer. As a result, there is very little taste. I am not much of a lager fan, but even so this was disappointing. I really hope Troubled Monk can change their trajectory and produce something to be excited about once again. (2.0 / 5)
Even with the two books completed this week, and another likely to be finished shortly after this is published, there have not been a lot of new words to produce. One is definitely a repeat, as I remembered it from the Wheel of Time books as soon as I looked it up.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, on a weekend that seems chilly after the record-setting summer we have had so far. The record set was 15 days of 30°C or higher in a year. The previous record was set in 1961. It is not hard to imagine another few days at or above 30 before the summer is over.
If I was saying this instead of typing it, I might subconsciously stay "I can even" believe how hot it has been. I point this out because of a great YouTube channel I found this week. Rachel's English highlights how American English is pronounced in practice, and not just how it should be pronounced. For example, the video I came across highlighted the various ways "can't" and "can" are used, stressed, and in some cases, mangled. I can even begin to say how interesting this was.
There is some good analysis of how American English is spoken on her channel, and it really made me think about how and what I say.
I was able to finish two books this week, one fiction and one about the fictions we create we get emotional. (Well, that is just one point in the second book, but I thought it was a clever segue.)
Book #27 for 2021 was "Nemesis Games" by James S.A. Corey. This is the fifth book in the Expanse series and is by far my favorite to date. Big characters caught up in and creating massive plot points that impact the entire solar system, all wrapped around a core story of humanity and how much we matter to each other. If you are familiar with the Expanse books, you will know how each chapter switches the focus of the third-person perspective. I particularly enjoyed how this book capitalized on that format to highlight how each individual coped with the crisis of the moment. This was especially powerful toward the end of the book as the characters convened in one place and everyone was reacting to the same moments. Good stuff, and definitely looking forward to the next book.
Book #28 was "Dare to Lead" by Brené Brown. There is a lot of useful information in this book and I am very glad I read it. However, much like my previous reviews of the Cal Newport books, I cannot really say it was an enjoyable read and I had trouble getting into a flow. I think the problem is that there is a lot of filler in these books. The anecdotes are useful to a point but spending three pages of first-person exposition from an interviewee has me flipping through the pages and therefore losing engagement with the book. But even with this, I took a lot out of the book and there is a lot of personal time and investment I will make to ensure I really put the learnings into practice.
A tangential learning from this book is that I might be engaging with books like this in ways that do not work for me. To wit, I do own a copy of the book, but I listened to about half of it on an audiobook. The anecdotes and personal stories are better in audiobook format, especially as Brown narrated the book herself and she was a very engaging voice. However, the bullet points and substantial checklists of items to process are much better in a book in a visual format. I will keep that in mind for the next non-fiction book I read.
Time in the saddle was cut short this week by something that I knew was going to happen eventually but was still disappointing when it finally happened.
My bike frame on my 2017 Giant Revolt 2 broke, as you can see in the picture. I am not sure how it happened, but it has been weakened for a long time. Luckily for me, the actual moment it broke came when I was moving slowly through our neighborhood. I was able to unclip and hop out before crashing. Unfortunately, there is a global bike shortage right now, so I do not know when I will get a new bike. I still have my winter bike, but that needs to be cleaned up and serviced so for the time being, my rides are going to be limited to the amount of time I can stomach on the stationary bike in the basement.
I was hoping to make it to Portage La Prairie this week, but the broken frame squashed that goal. I did make it to Brandon though. According to Wikipedia, Brandon is the second largest city in Manitoba with a population of about 48,000 and has a municipal airport with the IATA code of YBR.
Here is the updated progress chart.
I had six new beers, bringing my total to 792 in my personal quest to drink one of each beer in the world.
Beer #787 was the Red Magil DIPA from Tailgunner Brewing Company in Calgary. This had a nice mouthfeel and carbonation. It tasted like spicy pineapple juice and was a bit too sweet for my liking. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #788 is another from Calgary, this time from New Level Brewing, a brewery that gets a lot of their inspiration from death metal. Their Hellion Lager had a bit of maltiness and a decent taste but had the sweetness endemic to lagers that I do not like. (3.25 / 5)
Moving back up Highway 2 to Edmonton, Beer #789 was my fourth beer from Analog Brewing. The Loot Box Hops is a rotational-hopped West Coast IPA. I had the most recent version hopped with Sabro. I like this quite a bit. The hops added good flavor without being overly bitter. Looking forward to their next version of this beer. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #790 was the Raised by Wolves IPA from Driftwood in Victoria. I liked the pine and resin flavor combined with the fruitiness. Lot of flavors in this and quite easy to drink. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #791 was yet another from Calgary, this time from Village Brewery. Village is a solid brewery with decent beers, but beyond their Blacksmith Dark Ale, I have always found their beers to be just decent. Their 2021 version of the Father beer is a New England IPA and like their others, it was decent. (3.25 / 5)
Last up was the only import beer in the last two weeks. I posted two weeks ago about a beer from Florissant, Missouri from the Narrow Gauge Brewing Company. For Beer #792, I had their Fallen Flag American IPA. This was not as good as their King Fallen Flag Imperial, but still quite good. I am definitely liking their beers. One more to go in the fridge. Hopefully, it is as good as the first two. (3.75 / 5)
One note: I had an Alley Kat brewed Blonde Ale for Fort Edmonton Park but it does not show up on Untappd. Hopefully it appears soon. For the record, it was not that good. (2.75 / 5)
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude where it is still hot and getting drier. There was no update last week, so the usual sections are a bit meatier this week: two books, one segment, five beers, and a metric boatload of words.
First up, a quote from the mid-week pickup Brain Pickings email. For this week, Brain Pickings creator Maria Popova went back to 2015 for an article on the famed mycologist, Beatrix Potter. (Yes, she also wrote a book or two.)
Imagination is the precursor to policy, the precondition to action. Imagination, like wonder, allows us to value something. --Linda Lear
The quote is from Linda Lear, who wrote what Popova calls the best book on Beatrix Potter. The quote struck me as I had recently written about imagination in the Gaming section. Imagination is not just for gaming and writing, but also allows us to see into the future and gives us a view at a world we would like to live, which in turn illuminates the targets we need to strive for to bring the ideas in our imagination into reality.
I was able to finish one book and one book-that-was-actually-a-play this week.
Book #25 for 2021 was "Authority" by Jeff Vandermeer, the second book in the Southern Reach trilogy. I read "Annihilation" in 2018 and liked it enough to pick up the second book. This has a significantly different feel than Annihilation as it takes place completely outside the mysterious and deadly zone that was the focus of the first book. Authority is largely the story of an interim administrator of the Southern Reach organization brought in to determine what exactly is going on with the flagging and directionless organization. Throughout the book, the protagonist flounders and control (authority) eludes him, but it is unclear why. The story comes together nicely and sets up for an interesting end to the trilogy. If you are not a fan of psychological terror, this might not be the book for you. There were many scenes which could definitely unnerve the reader, including and one completely freaky spine-tingling scene.
Book #26 for 2021 was the play "R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)". This was originally written in 1920 and was translated to English in 1923. I was drawn to it as it is described as the work that introduced the word and concept of "robot" to English and science fiction. As with all good fiction, the technology is a stage prop, a reason to explore a facet of humanity. In this case, it is a story of human hubris and how the human race lost its purpose and was easily replaced by its creations. Highly recommended. Various versions exist, including on the Standard Ebooks site.
As an aside, I discovered Standard Ebooks this week while searching for a version of R.U.R. The ebooks they publish are much nicer to read than the average fare from Gutenberg, and in fact use the translations from Gutenberg and other sources. Check them out.
I was able to complete the Grenfell-Virden segment in the cross-Canada virtual tour since the last update. When I picked route for this leg, I thought I would have a stop in Virden to identify the transition into Manitoba. Little did I know that Virden had such an outsized impact for a town of just over 3000 people. According to Wikipedia, Virden is the birthplace of the co-founder of Boston Pizza, the co-founder of Reader's Digest, and a former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. Nice work, Virden.
Here is the latest progress chart. Since I started tracking my rides for this virtual tour, I have rode 165 times in 305 days for a total of 3007 km.
Five new beers in fourteen days. I am now at 786 unique check-ins in my personal quest to drink one of every beer in the world. One standout, one decent offering, and three that will not make the drink-again list.
Beer #782 was The Tragically Hip Road Apples cider from Thornbury Village Cider House and Brewery in Thornhill, Ontario. I really wanted to love this cider, but it had a weird taste that I just could not get into. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #783 was the King Fallen Flag Imperial IPA from Narrow Gauge Brewing in Florissant, Missouri. This was quite a good beer with a deep flavor that was not overpowered by the high ABV. I have a couple other beers in the fridge from Narrow Gauge and I am looking forward to those as well. (4.0 / 5)
Beer #784 was the Valley of the Giants Belgian Strong from Polar Park here in Edmonton. The first taste was surprisingly good. It was crisp like a lager but definitely a strong ale taste. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #785 was the Bobbing Duck Wit from High River Brewing in High River. I was not a fan of this beer. The taste was overly peppery from the coriander, and I did not taste much else. (3.0 / 5)
Last up and coming in as Beer #786 was the Gold Past Life Czech Lager from The Establishment Brewing Company. For the only other beer I have had from Establishment, I commented that it "came highly recommended and well reviewed so I am surprised how little impact this had on me". Ditto on this one. Admittedly I am not a fan of lagers, but this did not have much to draw me in. (3.0 / 5)
A surfeit of words this week, mostly from "Rosewater: Insurrection" that I finished two weeks ago.
massacring (present participle)
ex post facto
[ˌeks pōst ˈfaktō]
Greetings from 53.5° where overnight on Saturday the ambient air temperature and the air quality index were both 10. A temperature of 10°C overnight in July is not great but it is not the end of the world. An air quality index of 10 however is as close the End Times as I want to experience, thank you very much.
The portion of the week where I was not encamped indoors to avoid the smoke was spent preparing for the new campaign I start running tomorrow, cycling, drinking a few beer, and reading a few books. In other words, status quo.
I finished two books this week, or at least I would like to take credit for two books. I finished one for sure, if the definition of book is something with an ISBN or ISSN.
Book #23 for 2021 was "The Rosewater Insurrection" by Tade Thompson. This is the second book in the Wormwood series, and I read and commented on the first book two years ago. In summary, an alien lifeform has inhabited a large area in Nigeria and the relationship with the humans and other fauna and flora is complicated. In some ways, the - let's call it terran - flora and fauna benefit greatly from the alien presence. However, there are reasons to be cautious of course, and Insurrection deals with the debate of how to live with, or exterminate, a clearly superior and uninvited guest. Thompson has created a super series with this trilogy, one that is bursting with ideas. I highly recommend picking up the first book in the series, simply titled "Rosewater" and then diving into Insurrection as well. I will try to have less time between the second and third books in the series than I did after reading the first.
The second book is called a "pamphlet" by the author, which is, I think, a deliberate nod towards the pamphlets used to spread liberal, socialist, and communist ideology. Since it was not published and cataloged formally, I was unsure if I should count it as a "book' in my reading for the year. Given the thought-provoking ideas and the list of words I had to look up, I decided that it was sufficient to classify as a "book" so I created a book manually in my LibraryThing account.
Book #24 for 2021 was the previously mentioned pamphlet, "At the end of the world, plant a tree: Considerations for the end of Human Time" by Adam Greenfield. This was something that akin to my reading of Peter Fleming's "The Worst is Yet to Come" in 2019. The pamphlet was an overview of how so many of today's trends spell an end for the interconnected and global world that has only existed for a few decades and only for a small percentage of the world's population. There is, like anything that Greenfield writes, a lot to unpack.
It is said that depressives have a clearer view on the world, something that Greenfield mentions in his pamphlet. Greenfield lays out a stark assessment of how broken our societies and global structures are and how COVID has exposed the flaws and problems, again reminding me of Fleming's argument that things are only going to get worse.
There are positive points in the pamphlet, like the power of community and skill-sharing, and the long-term selfless act of planting a tree. There is symbolism in the act of planting a tree where it is a "gesture toward a time yet to come, even when you know full well there is no future you or your survivors will inhabit or give name to".
So, get out there, plant a tree, commune with your fellow humans, share some skills. And buy the pamphlet as a fundraiser for Libreria which looks like a super cool bookstore.
I finished another segment this week, pushing past Grenfell, Saskatchewan. There is a surprising amount to say about Grenfell on Wikipedia given that it has a population of roughly 1,000 people. My personal reason for including Grenfell as the end of a segment is that two of my great-grandparents are buried there. That would be my father's mother's parents.
Here is the updated progress chart. I am going to push to complete the rest of the next segment so that I can push into Manitoba.
There were three entries on the Music Finds playlist for this week. First up was a new single from Kurt Vile, an artist that I have discovered since subscribing to Tidal. His latest, "Run Run Run" is energetic and catchy. Looking forward to the rest of the upcoming album. Next was an album by the Drug Store Romeos. I must be honest and say that I did not like this album. The songs that had promise on first listen either changed tone halfway through or dragged on too long. For example, "Building Song" starts out strong and really hooked me in, but then it seems to just repeat for four minutes.
Last up was the latest album by the Wallflowers, "Exit Wounds". I read somewhere earlier this week that "One Headlight" by the Wallflowers might be the best song from the 90s, and I think even if it is not, it is one of the best. The new album is good with "The Dive Bar in My Heart" and "I'll Let You Down (But Will Not Give You Up)" as the standouts. I think this is an album that needs a few solid listens to to really appreciate.
Over the last month, I went through my first bag of coffee from Rogue Wave, a roaster from here in Edmonton. I heard from two sources that Rogue Wave is a "passion project", where the owners are in business to continuously improve and offer products that continually innovate and evolve. With an ethos like that, I thought I would try it.
I picked up a Guatemalan been called Bendición. This started out well, with the beans being quite fragrant. The first few cups were good, maybe not what I was looking for, but definitely good. Here is a picture from one of the first espressos I brewed with it.
You can see the nice dark beans and the rich espresso. Unfortunately, the beans got worse quickly. By the end, the beans were dried out and brittle and the output was weak and lacking much flavor. I do not think I did anything wrong as the beans were stored in an airtight glass container in the fridge, exactly like every other bean I use. I will go back and try another bag from Rogue Wave and will ask them if I did something wrong. If that second bag has the same issue though, that will be as far as I get with them.
Two new beers this week, both with a bit of personal connection.
First up, Beer #780 was the Lavender Sour from Moody Ales in Port Moody, BC. This was a good sour, with a nice lemonade flavor and a wonderful aroma from the lavender. I know the owner of the farm that supplies the lavender, so that's a plus. (3.5 / 5)
Second up and coming in as Beer #781 was a beer that caught my eye since it literally has my name written all over it. I was not going to pass up the Robert wild ale from Trial and Ale, another local brewer. This is a wild ale, meaning that the yeast culture is captured from the air and not from a commercial yeast. As a result, there is definitely some wild "funk" in the taste, which is the defining characteristic of wild ales.
The naming of this beer came from the production process where the brewers were calling it "Blood Orange Brett", with Brett being short for Brettanomyces, which is the yeast. So Blood Orange Brett shortened to BOB and then was formalized for production by extending BOB to be Robert.
As for the beer, it was good. Dry and sour with some citrus. I am not sure it was worth $18 but this is an intriguing brewery, and I am definitely going to try more from them.
There were quite a few new words from the Thompson book but those are in my Kobo and I do not feel like getting them out right now. As a result, all of these words are from Greenfield's pamphlet.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. As I write this on Sunday morning, it is more than 20°C cooler than it was at the peak a few days ago. The hot weather has definitely slowed me down this week. In addition, I received my second COVID vaccine dose and it laid me out for a day and a half. With those two impacts, not much was accomplished but I did finish two books and tried two beers. Like I said, this week was definitely slower.
There was some disappointing COVID news earlier this week. In Calgary, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro and his family were verbally assaulted at a Canada Day parade.
My first point is that the behavior of the protesters was repulsive and I feel sorry for the entire Shandro family. One person said to Shandro's son "Sorry buddy but your father is a war criminal." It is a remarkable leap from instituting public health restrictions to being a war criminal, but I do not claim to understand the mindset of those individuals.
The second point is that Alberta is home to increasingly farther and farther right-wing ideas and personalities. There is no single unified right-wing group in Alberta, and maybe there has not been one since before the days of the Wildrose party. But you must think that a subset of the people that voted for Shandro in the 2019 election are now okay with the concept of verbally assaulting him and his family. I wonder how united the United Conservative Party will be in the 2023 election.
I finished two books this week, one was grabbed at random from the library and the other was a re-read with my younger daughter.
Book #21 for 2021 was "The Last Human" by Zack Jordan. I randomly picked up the book at the library and read it in four days. It is hard to describe the genre of this book. It is about a young person, but it is certainly not YA. It is set in space with myriad aliens, but I am not sure it is a space opera. It is about unanswered questions, but it is not a mystery. It is, however, completely enjoyable. The pacing shifted a few times as the plot progressed and twisted, and it twisted a couple times. I was unsure how the story would play out up to the very end, but in the end, it was very enjoyable. If you like books with big ideas and new concepts, grab a copy of "The Last Human".
Book #22 for 2021 was a re-read of "The Emerald Atlas" by John Stephens. Unlike the other book I finished this week, this is unquestionably a YA book as it features three youth between the ages of 14 and 11 as the protagonists. Most YA books are not worthy of a re-read, but I wanted to read this book with my younger daughter as I read it with my older daughter in 2017. There is a lot of emotion in this book and most of the characters are quite memorable. If you are looking for a good book to read to a tween child, "The Emerald Atlas" is a great choice.
Neither beer this week was from Alberta, which is definitely not the norm. Beer #775 was the Three Seasons Saison from Quidi Vidi Brewery in St. John's, Newfoundland. This was a straight-up saison - dry and crisp with a bit of tartness. (3.5 / 5)
Quidi Vidi is an interesting brewery. Their website logo highlights their twenty-fifth anniversary which means they have been around since well before the craft beer surge in the last decade. Kudos to them for their longevity. Their website lists upcoming live events at their brewery including a pro wrestling event. Take a look at their promotional poster. The two wrestlers in the top left look like they could beat the crap out of anybody, but the rest do not seem to be much of a threat. One guy look super stoked to see you, man, and one guy looks a bit baked. And then there is the one guy with the pose. I wonder if he used his Tinder profile picture for this poster. But to each his own and if you are into wrestling, you may as well do it with some good beer.
Come to think of it, incorporating Tinder into your pro wrestling name would be pretty cool. "The Terror from Tinder". "He knows more holds .." Okay, back to the beer.
Beer #776 was the Good Monster DIPA from Collective Arts. I have commented previously that Collective Arts is my favorite brewery outside of Alberta. I have also expressed disappointment in a couple of their beers in recent months. Good Monster was a good step in restoring my faith in Collective Arts. This had a boatload of hops and flavor in a beautiful hazy beer. I liked that the fruit tastes without it being a boozy juice box, and the level of carbonation was spot on. A beer definitely worthy of being from one of my favorite breweries. (3.75 / 5)
Greetings from the end of a beautiful week at 53.5° north latitude. We are at Day 465 of the COVID-19 pandemic and are nearing the end of the major restrictions here in Alberta. Of course, lots of places in the US are already allowing mass gatherings without masks.
I mean, Ralph Macchio, right? You have to think that he was an Isles fan back in their heyday, so semifinal hockey must be pretty sweet for him. And just a note for the make-you-feel-old file, Macchio turns 60 this November.
Life seems like it will turn back to normal this summer, and if not normal, then at least much less restricted. Several of my friends already have their second doses and the invites for get-togethers are starting to flow. I cannot say I feel comfortable with this though. I have spent so much of the past 465 days in this chair in this basement office that getting out and getting together seem alien to me. The INTP is strong in this one, unfortunately.
The summer equinox will be about thirty-five minutes after I post this entry, and the nice weather and summer mindset have slowed me down. There was a bit of reading with one book finished this week, and one segment finished on my bike, and that is it for updates.
I was able to finish one book this week. Book #20 for 2021 was the 1971 spy classic from John Le Carré, "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy". I grew up on spy novels, constantly grabbing Tom Clancy or Len Deighton novels as soon as my dad finished them. Reading a spy novel set fifty years ago with antiquated technology and an adversary that has not existed for thirty years might seem to be a recipe for disaster. However, in the same vein as my comments about "High Fidelity" two weeks ago, good stories are independent of the technological era in which they exist. Rob Fleming making a mixtape or George Smiley ordering accomplishes to use a miniature camera to photograph pages from a book are just actions the characters do. The technology does define the story because the technology is intrinsic to the era the story is set in, but in neither case does it diminish the story. That is because the story is each case is so damn good.
I am not sure what to say about this book. It was really good. I enjoyed it. I am glad I finally read it. You should do the same, but if you do, focus on the relationships between the characters because that is where the real story is even if the Soviet Union and tiny cameras are fictions in their own right.
On a different note, this first copy of Tinker I bought was in about 1994. I never read it for some reason. I moved so much in those days that I packed it away and forgot about it. A couple years later I picked up another copy and eventually realized I had two copies. After that, I bought every copy I found and had six or seven at one time. I finally gave them all away except one. The image below is an homage to how many versions I have owned over the years.
I made a bit of progress on my virtual cross-Canada tour. I was able to get four rides in this week but only 68 km. That was good enough to finish the segment between Davidson and Chamberlain, Saskatchewan. It will be interesting to see if any location on the virtual tour is smaller than Chamberlain. The Wikipedia entry mentions a population of 90 people in 2016, up 2.2% from 2011, but that was down from 108 in 2005. Next stop: Moose Jaw.
Here is the updated progress chart.
53.5° north latitude welcomes you to these pages. Or at least, I do, and I am at 53.5° north latitude, so I suppose I welcome you. Because I certainly do not speak for everyone. That would be presumptuous. Or something else. How would I know what glorified adjective describes what that would be? I don't even know what - insert inverted commas - speak for everyone means. But sometimes I do feel like I should speak for everyone, that only I know what should be said. Other times I want to speak for no one, not even myself. Sometimes the only thing that speaks for me is a song ringing through my ears. (We will cover the literary inspiration for that introduction below.)
The past week was interposed between the joy only long days and warm weather can provide, and bouts of melancholy that can only - at least for me - result from a memorable book. In between, there were three new beers, and a few good sessions in the saddle but not enough to close out a segment, and weirdly no new words unless D-Bag is a new word. Let's get into the recap.
I finished one book this week and finished one a couple of weeks ago but forgot to mention it until now. In the spirit of chronology, I will cover the forgotten one first.
Book #18 for 2021 was "The Flavor Matrix". Now you might look at this and say that it is a cookbook, and you would not be incorrect, and then emboldened by your accurate categorization of said book you might question how I could so cavalierly count a cookbook toward my reading goal. And while this complete disregard for literary integrity inflames your righteous indignation, you might throw down the gauntlet of "What's Next?" and caustically suggest that I will next count the latest three-ingredient cookbook from the neighborhood grocery store checkout counter (cream of mushroom soup, French's fried onions, and Velveeta!) and then scream "What's happening with this world? DOES NO ONE READ ANYMORE?."
But luckily you are not that kind of person, and instead you will merely tilt your head to the side and with a slightly furrowed brow, you will calmly say, "Interesting. That doesn't sound like something you typically count in your reading list. Tell me why you added this one." That will make my smile in silent recognition of why we are such good friends, and I will go on to explain my thought process, which will then cause you to smile back in silent recognition of why we are such good friends.
There are numerous recipes in the book, which therefore qualifies it as a cookbook. I have lots of cookbooks and there is rarely a week that I do not look through "They Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition)" and "How to Cook Everything" for ideas, reminders, and inspiration. In fact, if I cannot get ideas and inspiration from a cookbook, it is no good to me. However, both are cookbooks and not books that one reads. With this in mind, I have never added either to the list of books "read" even if I have read most of both multiple times over the years.
Even though The Flavor Matrix is in part a cookbook, I added it to my list of books read because it is a lot more than that. There is extensive science in the book explaining how each of the obvious and obtuse food pairings make sense. To do that, Matrix covers topics such as the difference between volatile and aromatic compounds and R and S isomers The index provides the main aromas for many foods. For example, one of the main aromas of a grape is beta-ionone. Who knew?
The science and the amount I learned from this book justifies it entering the list of books read for the year. The bonus of this book is that the recipes are quite good.
And as some D-Bag (see below) bellows into the abyss of the Internet that I have no integrity because only morons count cookbooks on lists of books read, we will once again smile at each other in silent recognition of our friendship.
Switching gears completely, Book #19 for 2021 was "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby. My most-likely-pathetic ode to the mental musings of the protagonist was what you read in the first paragraph of this week's entry. I felt a distinct kinship to Rob Fleming, and not just because of the same first name. His emotional shortcomings and need to find meaning in everything except what is important really hit home. But to be fair, I also feel a kinship because in the end, Rob (the book Rob) got his shit together at similar age and stage to Rob(ert) (the me Rob).
It was a bit weird reading a book that revolved around music written in a time before Napster, a time where mixtapes were still a thing. However, all good books are inevitably about people and relationships, and High Fidelity was no exception. It was easy to ignore Rob the DJ from a quarter-century ago because the point was not about his music but rather about how he used his love for music to enable him being a D-Bag.
That is too close to a spoiler though and I never want to ruin a reading experience on this site, but I feel safe that what I said is okay since the quotes on the book talk about Rob being "suffering" and "self-centered" and mention "childishness". For those of you not good at math, I am pretty sure Suffering + Self-Centered + Childishness = D-Bag.
So a good point, even if it hit a bit too close to home. Go out and read it and see how much of Rob you see in the mirror after you are done.
I had three new beers this week, bringing my total beers logged on Untapped since March 23, 20215 to 769. That comes to a new beer every 2.95 days, which is a bit slower than when I first started writing on this site. My average rating currently sits at 3.36 making all those 3.25 ratings on the wrong side of average.
Beer #767 was the Fantacity Witbier from 2 Crows in Halifax. This was a nice wheat beer with good flavor and hops and is quite refreshing. I'll seek out others from 2 Crows after having this one. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #768 was the Voodoo Ranger IPA from New Belgium. This was good stuff with a nice burst of hops. It had a high ABV that was hardly noticeable, coupled with a great aroma from the mixture of hops. (3.5 / 5)
Last up and coming in at Beer #769 was the Leifur Nr. 32 from Borg Brugghús out of Iceland. Long-suffering friends of mine will know that their GaRun Nr. 19 is one of my favorite beers of all time and one that I would do extreme things to get my hands on once again. With that as a preamble to picking up the Leifur, I was bound to be disappointed. This was a good beer, no question. But it failed to live up to my memory of the GaRun Nr. 19. (3.25 / 5)
I just had to include it. In case you think I made this up, here is the actual link I used.