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)
Starting off this week's entry with two great quotes:
"I can resist anything but temptation."
Everything in moderation, including moderation."
Useful guidelines for self-improvement goals:
By now, I assume that everyone who has been in a white-collar job for over five years will know about SMART Goals. SMART goals would be helpful in any self-improvement exercise, but even more useful are the following five guidelines I came across in a web course this week. The guidelines come out of the Immunity To Change method developed by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey (1, 2).
Why nothing can ever be perfect, and why that's okay:
I'm continuing to read through my Pile of Shame in my office, and I decided to tackle "The Evolution of Useful Things" by Henry Petroski. I was hoping for more of a Bill Bryson-esque read, something like what Bryson did in "At Home", but it is still interesting. The underlying thesis in Petroski's book seems to be failure is the mother of invention, not necessity or even inspiration.
Since nothing is perfect, and, indeed, since even our ideas of perfection are not static, everything is subject to change over time. There can be no such thing as a "perfected" artifact; the future perfect can only be a tense, not a thing.
No, you’re not entitled to your opinion:
So leads a 2012 article from the website, The Conversation. The particular article refers to an interview where a Wollongong station quoted a known antivaxxer in a story about a measles outbreak. The question the article poses is whether the antivaxxer should be given any chance to enter into the conversation if in fact her contribution to the conversation will not be based in fact. The central quote in the article is as follows:
The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” – and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. And this attitude feeds, I suggest, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse.
While this seems intellectually sound when entering into a debate with someone whose idea of research and rigor is little more than Facebook, the question is how to get your point across when the other side just doesn't want to listen. This makes me think of the intro to "Civil War" by Guns N' Roses (i.e. "What we've got here is failure to communicate.
Some men you just can't reach...) and a 1990 paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology called "Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one's own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments." This is unfortunately now behind a paywall, but it is worth a read just for the lemon juice anecdote. (No spoilers here.)
Bring Your Dice To Work Day:
Last week I posted a map of the area I was planning on taking my players through in our weekly Wednesday D&D lunch hour game. I realized later that one of the players might read this blog and therefore get advanced intel on what lays ahead in the game. This is of course pure hubris, because that requires this blog to have actual readers in the first place. But getting past that issue, I have decided instead to copy text here post facto from the campaign diary I write up. I particularly liked this excerpt, even if it has a heavy metagaming requirement to be understood.
Movie - I Kill Giants:
Spoilers suck, so I won't spill anything about the movie "I Kill Giants" other than to suggest that you watch it. And then read the graphic novel that it was based on (caveat: I haven't read it yet, but it must have been decent since it was developed into a movie).
Book - Cuckoo's Calling:
Hey, this was a good read. I stayed up late a couple nights in a row to finish it off, and I'm glad I did. I do like detective novels, especially if the protagonist has solved the case before the answer is revealed in the story. There are a few more stories in the series that I'll be sure to read.
Not nearly as many new words this week. Apparently the J. K. Rowling detective novel wasn't as erudite as Rosewater.
NOUN, plural in form but singular or plural in construction
1. dishes served in addition to the main course of a meal