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 \]
Greetings from 53.5° once again. What's new, you ask? I suppose anything that will get registered here is less new and more of an extension of previous weeks. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when the country is in pandemic lock-down.
In addition, it is holiday time right now, or at least holiday-lite time. There is so much going on at work that I will get some time off, but certainly not the next two full weeks as I had hoped. While the amount of work is overwhelming, it is important work and keeping that in mind helps me get through the intense hours and multiple competing priorities.
Before I get into the regular sections, I want to highlight a podcast that helped me with understanding the appeal of Trump. The November 20 episode of On The Media from WNYC had a segment titled "The Ancient Heresy That Helps Us Understand QAnon". Having a roommate in university and a friend for the last twenty-five years who both studied religion in university gave me some awareness of Gnosticism. At a very high levels, gnostics value their own personal experience over the authority of experts and institutions.
You could listen to that segment, but it is likely that last sentence perfectly explains for you Trump and Trump's followers. My summary: Do not trust the experts (deep state) because only I (Trump) have the real knowledge. Search for the knowledge yourself and come to your own conclusions (flat earth, QAnon, etc.)
Call me a pessimist, but after listening to the segment and in particular the quote from the segment below, I do not think there is an easy path forward.
... when you take the red pill and you see the true nature of reality past the institutions and so on, that's an epiphany. I think, for those who really been red pilled, who have been born again into this Trumpian Gnosticism, there is no reason to let go. And anything that we would suggest as proof will become to them proof of our deception. And that makes for a dangerous situation that the best case scenario is going to simmer and simmer for a long time if it doesn't boil over. --Jeff Sharlet
With under a fortnight to go in 2020, I am doing what I can to get my reading total for the year over 50. I am confident I will hit 48 for sure, and 49 is looking pretty good. 50 or more will be tough though, especially if I have to work more than a day or two before New Year's.
Book #44 for 2020 was "The Better Mousetrap" by Tom Holt. Holt was an author I had no visibility on until this last year and we bought three or four of his books at used books stores and EPL book sales. The Better Mousetrap was an interesting book about two people drawn to each other, a magical world living out of view of most of the world, time travel, and insurance. It would be hard to give any sort of plot synopsis in under 250 words that would not spoil the book so I will not even try. I will just say that it was a good book and I am looking forward to diving into Holt's other books.
The weather was pretty good this week which allowed for some longer rides and faster times on those rides. I am still nowhere near the weekly distance of the most dedicated cyclists I know, but most of them these days are spending their saddle time indoors on Zwift and I am hammering out the kilometers through the snow and ice. I suppose I can claim a modicum of moral superiority for that fact, even though I know their fitness levels are way above mine.
I did make it to Hope in my cross-Canada virtual tour. According to Wikipedia, Hope is the easternmost point on what is called the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, which accounts for the average temperature this time of year being 3.5°C. It is also a meeting point, being the confluence of the Fraser and Coquihalla rivers, and the Coquihalla and Crowsnest highways. The Stó:lō First Nations peoples settled in that area between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago, and were nearly wiped-out by smallpox in 1782.
Here is an update of my progress chart for the virtual tour.
Work got in the way of diving into the Art Blakey album I had queued up in the Music Finds playlist for this week, but I did give the new album by Kid Cudi a few listens this week. It is pretty clear that "Man on the Moon III: The Chosen" is not my typical music. The picture on the home page of my Tidal app caught my attention and after reading Kid Cudi's bio, I thought I would give it a listen. There were a few songs that I did not like of course, but that is the same as on any album I listen to. Of the eighteen tracks, most were good and "Else's Baby Boy (flashback)" and "The Void" were particularly good. Some of the other songs were musically great even if I could not get into the lyrics. Standouts in that category include "Rockstar Knights" and "Sad People".
I am glad I dug into this album. I will seek out more albums by Kid Cudi and maybe the likes on the songs on this album will help suggest new albums and artists that are out of my regular rotation.
Just one new beer this week, although you could reasonably expect that I would have had more based on my last Visa bill.
Beer #705 was the Dandy Lager from Dandy Brewing out of Calgary. Dandy is a great brewery that has interesting and unique beers. I have checked in three from them so those are the only ones I have evidence for, but looking at their beer list it is clear I have had others that I have not checked in.
The Dandy lager was a bit hazier than expected for a lager, but quite good. A bit of citrus. Nice and crisp. Definitely worth having again. (3.75 / 5)
I dug into a new coffee this week, happily moving past the Salt Spring Metta Espresso that was thin and bland. The Cliff Hanger Espresso from Kicking Horse has a glossy, black bean and much more taste than the Metta. I am not super happy with the flavor though. The packaging mentions cocoa and fruit flavors and I think it is the cocoa that I am not fond of. A couple months ago, I mentioned the Old School Espresso from 49th Parallel and I indicated that I liked the cocoa flavor, so maybe it is not cocoa that is the problem, but the amount of cocoa in the flavor.
Also of note are the gloss on the beans. Like the 49th Parallel beans, the Cliff Hanger beans from Kicking Horse are quite glossy as compared to the matte finish of the Metta from Salt Spring. In addition, 16 grams of these beans completely fills my espresso portafilter and it took 18 grams with the Metta. I need to play with the amount of beans to grind because the Kicking Horse site suggests using 18 to 21 grams.
I will keep track of the next few coffees but I think I am settling on glossy beans with a bit of cocoa as components of the winning formula.
Two new words this week. I think we should all celebrate the winter solstice (tomorrow) but am willing to debate that suggestion.
[sab·bat | \ ˈsa-bət]
Happy end of the week, and what a week it was. Locally here at 53.5° north latitude, nationally across Canada, and throughout the world, COVID numbers continued to rise at a frightening rate. Our family is now in close contact with at least one COVID positive case, so we have one and possibly two people needing to isolate, and then the whole family depending on the results of the test results of our family members.
The week beyond watching COVID numbers was spent doing a lot of reading and listening, but not much else. I am writing this early on Sunday morning and as of right now I have not finished a book this week and have only had one new beer, and I finished one more segment on my cross-Canada virtual cycling tour but not the two segments to complete the first leg like I hoped. However, I suspect that by the end of the day I will have another new beer to hit the 700 check-in milestone, I will finish a book, and I will go on a ride to finish the leg. But that will have to be in the update for next week.
It was a disappointing week for cycling with the outdoor rides curtailed by a flat tire and no replacement tube. Most of the distance this week was on the stationary bike in the basement, which is just not as satisfying as an outdoor ride.
I was able to finish off the segment to Duncan this week which was a nice milestone. Like I said above, I expect to finish the segment to Victoria later today as well which will see me complete the first leg in my cross-Canada virtual tour. But for now, here are some fun facts of Duncan according to Wikipedia. Duncan has only 5,000 people but it serves the 84,000 people in the Cowichan Valley; there are 44 totem poles throughout Duncan; the average temperature for this time of year is 5°C; it is the birthplace of former NHL players Geoff and Russ Courtnall; and the current President of the University of Alberta, my alma mater, David Turpin, was also born there.
Here is a look at the updated chart for Leg 1, from Port Hardy to Victoria. It will be great to see that whole block green next week.
There were three albums in the Music Finds playlist for this week. A couple weeks ago I mentioned the Azymuth JID004 album and the track "Friendship Samba". I listened to the album a few times this week and really liked its sound. "Surnamé" and "Pulando Corda" were other standouts, but I really think this album needs to be listened to in whole and not as a collection of singles. As I said a couple weeks ago, there is some serious talent on this album.
The second album was another Art Blakey. "A Christmas Soul Night" is a 3'49", 30 track collection with a mix of live and studio recordings. I have to admit that I found this to be an oppressively long list of songs. The only song I favorited was "Prince Albert" and that was the second song of the thirty. It was a slog to get through which was really disappointing after how much I liked "Flapping Wings" and "Just Coolin'".
Last up this week was "Shapeshifter" by Sean De Burca. De Burca is a finger-style guitarist who can really pull out a number of sounds and melodies from his guitar. Shapeshifter is an 18-track album, with nine acoustic guitar songs followed by the same nine songs re-recorded with an electric guitar. I listened to this album a lot this week, and liked it more each listen, and much preferred the acoustic versions. Really amazing stuff from an artist I will check out more in the future.
I started a new coffee this week, the Metta Espresso from Salt Spring Coffee. Salt Spring Island is close to Duncan, the location noted from the virtual cycling tour, and was the location of last year's summer holiday. Back to the coffee, I really wanted to like this but am struggling to get into it. I find the flavor to be very thin. I even bumped up the amount of ground beans used from 15 to 17 grams but that did little to improve the taste or the amount of crema. The picture in the far right below is the 17 g pull.
Looking at the beans, they are very dull and matte finished, which is a definite contrast to the other beans I have used recently. As I learn more, I will look for a correlation between the color and gloss of the beans and the flavor I like.
This is not a terrible coffee, but I have a lot of cups of it to go through before I can move on to a new bag.
Just one new beer this week. Beer #699 was the Super Saturation Pale Ale from Cabin Brewing out of Calgary. It is a hazy, citrusy pale ale with a bit of pepper spice coming through. It was nice to have a hazy beer without a lot of sediment, so that was a plus. I have rated three beers from Cabin on Untappd and all three have been 3.75 out of 5. Clearly a brewery to follow more closely.
Just one word this week, but it is a spicy one!
Greeting from 53.5° north. Hopefully you are warmer wherever you are reading this. It was an unseasonably cold week. Life was filled with a number of work related successes, a couple new beers and another coffee to report on, a completed segment in my virtual cycling tour, plus a couple new words. I nearly finished two more books this week, but the summaries for both will have to wait until next week after they are fully completed.
The work success mainly revolve around the launch of our second wave of the Connect Care tool. Connect Care will eventually be deployed across the entire province, but for now it is focused on the Edmonton zone, with the addition of the suburban Edmonton hospitals launching this weekend. Most of the functionality in this wave is the same as in Wave 1 last November, with the addition of labor and delivery. And of course, there was a baby born right after the system went live. This tweet from the official AHS account says it best: the first baby born in Alberta with a fully digital medical record. It is a good feeling to be part of something like this.
There were two near beers this week. Beer #693 was the Guinness Hop House lager. Decent stuff, especially for a lager. Nice malty flavor, coloring, and aroma. (3.25 / 5) Beer #694 was a real let down and am riding against the popular opinion on the Jelly King from Bellwoods Brewery. I found it overly sour, with the sourness being the only discernible taste. I was really looking forward to this one based on the reviews of my connections on Untappd. (2.75 / 5)
At this point in my five and a half years (2043 days, to be specific) of logging beers on Untappd, I am averaging logging a new beer every 2.94 days. When I started writing on this site, I was averaging a new beer every 2.74 days so I am slowing down. Maybe that is a good thing? I'll have to think about that, maybe over a beer ...
This is my second coffee I have written about, but it is one I have drank several times before. 49th Parallel is out of Vancouver and is the coffee served at Square One, the local coffee shop just a few blocks from home. Their Old School Espresso is a wonderful smelling bean that creates a nice crema. The taste is lighter, with just a hint of chocolate.
You can see that these beans are much less glossy than the Burnt Timber beans I wrote about a few weeks ago. As I write more about coffee, I am going to figure out what those different characteristics mean - at the most mundane, the ground coffee is much less greasy before going into the machine.
I had to ride indoors three times this week. My winter bike is not yet ready and the roads were covered with snow for most of the week. I only tallied 57 km this week, but I did get in the saddle five different times which was a nice accomplishment. In my virtual cross-Canada tour, I got all the way to Campbell River and will start the trek to Nanaimo and am now about 45% of the way to Victoria.
Fun facts about Campbell River: it has been long touted as the Salmon Capital of the World, and its Indigenous name is Wiwek̓a̱m. The average high for October is 13° C, and its airport code is YBL.
Just two new words this week, which does not seem like a lot but at least this list gets to the point quickly.
Happy Thanksgiving weekend from 53.5° north latitude. Fall is upon us, and the wind is blowing leaves off the trees.
Beyond the perennial topic of choice of weather, COVID is firmly entrenched into every conversation it seems, and rightfully so. Cases are rising in most jurisdictions globally, and locally outbreaks are hitting multiple schools, and therefore impacting multiple families, on a weekly basis. When we rushed home in March and hunkered down in April, it seemed easy to contemplate the change to our lives. It was temporary, after all. After a few weeks, the weather started to warm up, and the days got longer and our lives continued to improved. By May, those of us working at home were able to take calls while we walked, and lots of people started experimenting with driveway visits. The summer was even better as the kids got outside, the weather was decent, and lots of people rediscovered biking and walking through their neighborhoods.
But now what? As soon as the kids stopped socializing in a park and started getting pushed back into classrooms, we started having outbreaks. The driveway visits are much harder now because it is cold during the days, let alone the evenings. And who can legitimately take a call when the fall winding is howling?
I have worked in an around the Edmonton downtown core for 27 years now. In that time, I have walked between the various buildings via the pedway system nearly every day I was downtown. Some of that is walking from the LRT to whichever office I was working in, walking around at lunch, running errands, or just taking a call as I walked.
Assuming a maximum of 220 work days a year, minus the really cold days, the days when I had various impairments requiring crutches, days with all day meetings, holidays, travel days, and working from home days, in the time up to the start of COVID I can safely estimate that I have walked around downtown Edmonton at least 100 days each year. It is also safe to estimate that I walked at least two kilometers a day, with a lot of days at four, five, or even more kilometers. So let's say for arguments sake that in the last quarter century I have walked the width of Canada as I trotted around the downtown core. A large part of who I am as a person is connected to my peripatetic tendencies.
Now what am I going to do? I have a 1.5 km walk to get to the nearest mall, and there is very little of interest around that mall compared to the variety of downtown. Working from home is fine. It is the lack of variety and day-to-day variation that will be the problem this winter. Normally that variation was achieved through walking and so I will need to figure out a replacement. If I do not, this will be a very long WFH winter.
Lots of good news on the Kickstarter front. In the past week, I have received updates on six campaigns that I backed. Five are related to RPGs and one is an update on Cory Doctorow's audiobook version of "Attack Surface" that I mentioned a few weeks ago. Doctorow had 6,283 people back his audiobook, which is great news for him and for independence in audiobook publishing going forward.
Three of the RPG products are large publications. "Creatures" is a monster compendium that works in 5e and the publisher's Fateforge extension of 5e. I have a work-in-progress PDF version and this is a great book. "The Lost City of Gaxmoor" is a massively outlined city, complete with listings for the Outer and Inner city, crypts, sewers, and a couple dozen pages of fully fleshed out NPCs. I am interested in this one, although I think I am more interested in "Myriad, City of Tiers" than Gaxmoor. But Gaxmoor was developed in partnership with the sons of Gary Gygax, so that alone was enough to support this campaign. The third large product was the "Heckna! Carnival Horror Campaign Setting" from Hit Point Press. A horror carnival is not something I would typically be interested in, but Hit Point Press developed the Humblewood campaign setting that I picked up earlier this year. and I was really impressed with that. As a result, I figured Heckna would be a good addition to my gaming resources even if I do not run it as a full campaign.
The other two are much smaller products, but that is a big part of their appeal. Instead of hyping a product that needs months to deliver on the expanded content unlocked by the stretch goals, both "Captain Hartchild's Guide to Rare Dragons" and "Over the Next Hill" were available much sooner. OTNH was available immediately after the close of the campaign, and that is a model that will serve Morrus of EN World fame well in future campaigns.
I have backed 21 campaigns in the last year, so not quite enough for Kickstarter Super Backer status. I think I should stay away from the platform for a few weeks, just to give my bank account a break but Super Backer status would be pretty cool.
I was able to finish a couple books this week, which was a good feeling. Book #36 for 2020 was "The Princess Bride" by William Goldman who holds up the fiction throughout the book that he is merely the translator and abridger of a classic by S. Morgenstern. The book is as good as the movie that was based on it, and maybe even a bit better since it is interposes Goldman's "analysis" of the flaws and merits of Morgenstern's writing. This is a wonderful story of flawed individuals coming together and doing something wonderful.
Book #37 for 2020 was a completely different novel and genre than Princess Bride. "All Tomorrow's Parties" by William Gibson was a nice conclusion to the story in Gibson's previous novel, "Idoru". I did not realize until I finished this book though that "Virtual Light" was the first book in the "Bridge Book" trilogy, so I will have to go back and pick that one up later. The story Gibson wrote for All Tomorrow's Parties is hard to describe without spoilers, so I will just say that there are few other writers that I have come across that can extrapolate to the near future to create a plausible and recognizable world as effectively as Gibson. I will say that the denouement of the story left me slack-jawed for a few minutes as I considered the implications of what had just happened.
I made some good progress in my virtual cross-Canada cycling tour. Plus I updated my spreadsheet to do a better job of updating my progress bars.
Much like my comment in the Reading Pile section, it felt good to find some new music this week. There were a few entries in my Music Finds playlist this week. First up was the latest from Flaming Lips. I was taken aback by how depressing the lyrics were across the songs in "American Head". Musically it was good, but I was hard-pressed to find a song that I wanted to listen to again until the final song in the album, "My Religion is You".
After that were a couple throwback bands from the 90s, Semisonic and Goo Goo Dolls. Semisonic was the crafter of a single massive hit with "Closing Time", that has one of the greatest lines in pop rock.
Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. -- "ClosingTime", by Semisonic
The songs from Semisonic and the Goo Goo Dolls song were both released in June and are decent offerings. Maybe not "Closing Time" or "Iris", but "You're Not Alone" by Semisonic and "Just a Man" by Goo Goo Dolls are still good enough to listen to. I actually think "Just a Man" might stick as something worth listening to.
The next entry was from a fusion supergroup from 1976 that had Phil Collins on drums called Brand X. The album "Unorthodox Behavior" was fantastic, and made me wonder how I never heard of them before this week.
Finally, a favorite of mine from 2019, Future Islands, released a new album called "As Long As You Are". The songs in the early part of the album are more upbeat than the songs later in the album, but they all have good music and rhythm and are delivered with frontman Samuel T. Herring's unique vocals. Good stuff once again from Future Islands.
Three new beers this week. Making up for lost time, I suppose.
Beer #688 was the Full Time IPA from Beau's. Decent if forgettable. Lots of hops and a bit of pine, but not a lot of flavor beyond the bitterness. (3.25 / 5) Beer #689 was the Mad Trapper Czech Amber Lager from Apex Predator. This is near the top of my list for lagers as it had a lot of flavor. Nice caramel taste with a bit of burnt cocoa, and great color. (4.0 / 5) Last up this week was the Kellerbier from German brewer Hacker Pschorr. I think the unfiltered nature really helped this one as I find a lot of German lagers a bit weak. This one had some good flavor. (3.5 / 5)
I am going to start rating the coffees I buy. I do not mean the coffee I pick up in a store to drink right then, but the bags of roasted beans that I grind at home. The coffee I am brewing at home right now is Burnt Timber from Calgary Heritage Coffee Roasters. Burnt Timber is a dark roast, and it is pretty good. I do not yet have the same ability to pick out flavors in my coffee as I can with beers, but I am sure that will come with time. In the meantime, here are a few pictures of the before and after process to make my daily Americano. One thing I will point out is that you can see how the espresso crema is a little thin, at least thinner than I would like.
A bit of reading this week, but neither book introduced a lot of new words. One was a repeat that did make me feel good about once I looked it up, and one was a confirmation that I should have looked up in the moment but was just too lazy to do so.