Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. This past week was filled with beer, cycling, writing, and work. On top of all that, it snowed on Saturday which I suppose should not be surprising given that it is still early April.
Before we get into the regular sections of this week's blog, I want to highlight two different items. First up, let's talk about work. The most memorable work item from the past week is clearly the launch of Wave 3 of the Connect Care Clinical Information System. This is a smaller wave from the point of view of number of users, but is huge from a geography point of view. Covering the western half of the North Zone of Alberta, Connect Care went live in 31 sites. Launching a new system across that many users covering that much territory is a great accomplishment and everyone should be very proud of their collective success.
The other item I want to highlight before getting on to the regular sections is The Uncensored Library. This is an effort from the organization Reporters Without Borders to use the universal appeal of Minecraft to get around censorship and oppression towards journalists. From the website, the goal is to provide "access to independent information to young people around the world through a medium they can playfully interact with. Journalists from five different countries now have a place to make their voices heard again, despite having been banned, jailed, exiled and even killed."
I think this is a wonderful initiative, and in theory could actually reach a number of youth around the world. It is unclear how many people will actually reach out to download the particular Minecraft map and explore the information in it, particularly because it is only available on the Java edition. I did not understand why it would be exclusive to Java, but then I came across this explanation:
Unfortunately there are no plans to convert to Bedrock. Although there's a huge audience there, it's very difficult to share Bedrock content without going through the Minecraft Marketplace—which this map would not be suitable for,
It was not immediately clear why this map would not be suitable for the Minecraft Marketplace. My assumption is that the it would be a violation of the Microsoft Store Policies, in particular Section 11.10 Country/Region Specific Requirements. That section specifically calls out "providing or enabling access to content or services that are illegal under applicable local law". Publications of journalists that are censored would be illegal, so I suppose that must be the reason.
It is a bit of a shame of course as the Bedrock version of Minecraft has a larger and expanding user base, where the Java user base is decreasing. If nothing else though, this project has an opportunity to raise awareness on an important issue. Please consider donating to RSF at this link.
I was able to complete the short, first segment in Leg #4 from Edmonton to Elk Island National Park in my virtual cross-Canada. I still have a few hours to get another ride in today, but given the frozen ice on the road from the spring snow on Saturday chances are I am done for the week. Here is the updated chart.
Looking at the chart, I will easily reach Vegreville next week and have a chance of getting through to Lloydminster in two weeks. More likely though will be that I will not pass Lloydminster until the week of April 26 but will be on my way to Saskatoon that week.
In the meantime, here are a few fun facts about Elk Island courtesy of Wikipedia. As far as national parks go, it is the eighth smallest, which makes me wonder how small the seven other smaller parks are. Having been to Elk Island man times in my life, I can confirm that it is definitely small. However, it is the largest fully enclosed national park in Canada, mainly due to the need to pen in the large amount of wood bison in a park with a major national highway running through it. Wood bison are the largest terrestrial mammal in North America, and Elk Island is also home to the smallest terrestrial mammal in North America, the pygmy shrew.
To give some perspective, here is a picture of a wood bison on the road into Elk Island a few years ago. I am sure that bad boy's head was too big to fit in the window of our car and he would have had to bend his neck down to do so, if he was so inclined.
Three new beers this week coming from breweries across Canada.
First up and coming in as Beer #746 was the Good as Gold Dortmunder Lager from SYC Brewing here in Edmonton. This was a fine example of the style with a really nice balance of malt and tang. The taste was fairly understated, but that is consistent with the style. I am not a huge fan of textbook lagers, as maybe the flavors are too nuanced for me. That said, I was able to appreciate how well this was put together, and for what it was, it was quite good. (3.5 / 5) If you are looking for a good brewery to dig into, try SYC. I have tried four of their beers to date and they are averaging 3.6. (Technically, 3.625 for those of you that are as pedantic as me.)
Beer #747 was a super IPA from Collective Arts, their IPA No. 16. The elderflower was a nice add, not something I think I have had in a beer before. There was some nice tartness from the grapefruit without the annoying pithiness that often comes with citrus. Nice color and hazy without suspended sediment. (3.75 / 5)
Last up and Beer #748 was a collaboration headed up by Ribstone Creek Brewery out of Edgerton. This was a nice yeasty white with multiple flavors. Orange for sure, maybe pineapple or banana. Both of those last two were pretty faint. Nice head and color and a really sweet aroma. I am really glad that Ribstone is back in my rotation. They are a bit geographically outside the brewing corridor in Alberta and it would be great for them to stick around and prosper. This beer was a good sign. (3.5 / 5)
Seven new words this week, with the first two coming from the Churchill book, The Splendid and The Vile. After this week, there are still six new words coming from that book. The other five this week came from a book I am reading from Michael Pollan that should be complete next week.
Greetings and welcome. My home at 53.5° north is surrounded by icy roads and sidewalks but for the most part the weather has been fairly nice. The ice coupled with my second flat tire in a month restricted my outdoor riding this week, and the short days as we approach solstice are not helping increase a desire to get outside. But in a week the days will start getting longer once again, so the worst is almost passed.
Not much else happened this week. There was a lot of talk in Alberta about the mockdown / lockdown restrictions, and I did try out one new beer. But alas, that is all I have to report this week. Let's talk about the COVID restrictions, and what one former Albertan thinks of our plans.
"The evidence is that there's no conflict between what's right for the economy, what's right for people's health … people in hospital don't spend money." --Stephen Duckett, former CEO of Alberta Health Services, and currently one of the architects of Australia's plan to reach zero COVID cases
When Alberta Health Services announced its first CEO, my boss looked across the table at me and arched his eyebrows, visually asking me if I had any idea who this Stephen Duckett was. I of course had no idea. The short and turbulent tenure of Duckett is probably worthy of a book in itself, so I will not get into that here. What I will say is that in the limited times I was in the same room has him, it was clear he was intelligent.
CBC interviewing Duckett about what is happening in Alberta is a bit of inspired journalism and clickbait all rolled together, but there is some merit in understanding what Duckett is saying. In essence, under a plan that he co-authored, the idea was to do a substantial and complete lockdown, "done once and done well" as Duckett said. The state of Victoria, which includes Melbourne and is home to 6.4 million people has not seen a single case his the end of October. Even at the peak, Victoria only saw 700 cases a day.
Looking at the most recent COVID stats for Alberta paints a much different number. A jurisdiction with a population of 4.3 million people registered over 10,000 new cases last week, so over 1,000 cases a day. Plus our numbers are going up drastically, including our hospitalization rates. The comparison is tainted by the difference in seasons of course, as Victoria is going into summer not winter, but even with that it seems that we had the wrong approach here in Alberta.
"It's an outdated view, of course, because we now know the evidence is pretty clear that the best public health outcome is also the best economic outcome." --Stephen Duckett
The argument the Alberta government espouses is that chasing a goal for zero COVID cases is illiberal and extreme. Premier Kenney has touted supported for Charter freedoms as a rationale for not forcing a complete lockdown and for waiting for the level of lockdown that he has implemented. So instead of three months of hard lockdown, we did what we could to keep the economy open. It is hard not to think that this government values dollars over lives.
I did not make it to Hope as I, pun intended, hoped I would. As I type this on Sunday morning, I am a moderate ride away from getting there and chances are I will be able to hammer through a stationary bike session later today to get it done. But for now, I made it about half way to Hope and have my sights set on Merritt.
I mentioned last week that I was looking forward to albums by Art Blakey and Brian Eno. Those two albums were the only entries in the Music Finds playlist of this week.
Eno's album "Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks" was from 1983 and the Extended Edition featured twenty-three tracks. It took me a while to get into it, but after the first three tracks I was really enjoying it. "Silver Morning" and Deep Blue Day" on Volume 1 and "The End of a Thin Cord" on Volume 2 were real standouts for me.
"Is it True 'Bout ..." is the sixth Art Blakey album I have listened to since the summer and this was much more to my liking that the last couple. The version of "Round About Midnight" was fantastic. Plus it had the 1'40" "theme song" and after hearing that on multiple albums, I have to smile when I hear that woman trying to whip up the crowd: "Art Blakey. ART Blakely. ART BLAKEY."
Just one new beer this week, another version of the Jelly King sour from Bellwoods Brewery. As I went into Untappd to check this new beer in, I realized I made a mistake. Back in October, I checked in the Jelly King sour, but as you can see from the picture, I checked in the Pink Guava version. I was not really a fan of that one and gave it a 2.75 / 5 rating.
Beer #704 was the normal Jelly King sour, and it was better for sure, but I still don't think it was as good as my Untappd connections stated. It could be that I am not into sours right now given the colder weather, or it could be that I am bored with grapefruit flavor. Either way, I only gave this a rating of 3.25 / 5.
Greetings from 53.5° north. I did not post an entry last week to allow for some down time, but also because there just wasn't much new to talk about. This week wasn't much more exiting to be honest, but I wanted to make sure I posted something this week to not allow the habit of writing to atrophy.
First of, I was negligent in my last post in not retracting a previous comment. In my entry for the week of May 18, I commented that there was clear evidence that hydroxychloroquine "is worse than ineffective; it is actually deadly." I felt confident in amplifying that message because it came from a reputable source, The Washington Post. Even more than that, the WaPo article referenced a study in The Lancet, which is a publication that I would never have questioned, but now maybe I should.
As the controversy increased around what was being called #LancetGate, a friend forwarded this article from Peter Ellis, an Australian statistician and data scientist. Ellis dissects the study in The Lancet stating the unequivocal conclusion that there was a "very high probability the data behind that high profile, high consequence Lancet study are completely fabricated". Soon after this article and other pieces of high-profile analysis were released in media across the world. The Lancet retracted the study.
In the end, it was a win that the global community could still out a fraud and ensure that the integrity of the scientific process is intact. But it was also a loss because an institution as highly regarded as The Lancet failed so miserably. I can only wince in anticipation of the blow this is to science and the scientific process, and to those who will use this as fodder for the fake news campaign pushed by Trump and his media handlers.
But regardless of all of that, I quoted something that turned out to be incorrect and I needed to address that point.
Book #22 for 2020 was "Belly Up" by Stuart Gibbs. This is the first book in the Young Adult FunJungle series, but the second book in the series that I have read with my younger daughter. As I said a few weeks ago when reviewing the previous book, the first-person narrator and protagonist is twelve year-old Teddy Fitzroy, a modern version of Encyclopedia Brown. This is definitely a good series to pull the younger readers into the mystery genre. It is also important to note YA series like this that are not filled with the tropes of stupid and incompetent adults. Belly Up delivers on this again, and offers some genuinely funny scenes while dealing with difficult concepts such as lying, fraud, and murder maturely and seriously. I have now read two of the FunJungle series and look forward to reading the rest with my younger daughter.
With 22 books read in 25 weeks, I am falling behind the pace required to read 50 books in 2020. My general lack of energy and enthusiasm of late has leaked over to my reading. I made zero progress with "The Name of the Wind" last week, I haven't touched the "Rogues" fantasy anthology in three weeks, and I have completely fallen off the wagon for both of my reading groups for "War and Peace" and "The Count of Monte Cristo". I need to rejuvenate and refresh my outlook, but what will come first? - the chicken (reading more) or the egg (the energy to read more).
Fourteen days, five new beers or about one new beer every 2.8 days. That is close to but a bit lower than my pace for the past six years. The five new beers puts me at 669 unique beers checked into Untappd.
The first of the fortnight was the Sierra Nevada Tropical Torpedo. This could have been great but had a bit of chalky or astringent aftertaste that took away from it. I really liked the hops and citrus flavor though. (3.5 / 5) The second was Bob's Your Dunkel from Alley Kat. Really good stuff. Nice caramel flavor with a great malty base. Quite enjoyable, and a shame this is not a permanent offering. (4.0 /5) The third beer for the fortnight was the Bent Stick Electric Boogaloo IPA. It was pretty good. It suffered a bit following the Bob's Your Dunkel, but I would have this again. (3.25 / 5)
Unfortunately the next beer I had was a total disappointment. The Final Test Batch for Blindman's Kettle Sour before they finalize on a recipe was nearly undrinkable. It was chalky and bitter and I didn't really think it was sour at all. Too bad as I was really looking forward to this. (2.5 / 5). The last beer was better though. The Waltz Pilsner from 2 Crows out of Halifax seemed more bitter than 22 IBU, and had a nice peppery taste. I'll seek out more beers from 2 Crows going forward based on this one. (3.5 / 5)
Only a few new words over the past fortnight, which is of course a clear indication of how little I have read recently. One for sure is a repeat, and a very recent repeat at that.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. If my weeks had themes, this week's theme would have to be "The Triumph of the Introverts". I could see the struggle and the fatigue in the faces and hear in the voices of my friends and coworkers this last week. What seemed like a holiday a few weeks ago, a chance to hang out, try some new tech, ignore the commute, turned this last week into the slog of quarantine. The fact that we haven't hit the peak yet, that we have a significant amount of time before isolation ends, the fact that we should mentally prepare for another wave in the fall, has all taken its toll on those around me.
But not everyone is doing poorly. Some of us, the introverts especially, are faring much better. One might even argue that we were made for these times. If you have a deep-seated need to be in physical contact with someone, you are going to be in a much worse place right now than if connection via video conference is sufficient for you. Mental health issues will be paramount while and after we deal with the physical issues. I'll point out the same mental health support videos that I highlighted in last week's entry. Watch them for yourself and those close to you, and share those with others in case they might benefit as well. Even if you are doing better than most because of your innate personality and genetic makeup, it is highly unlikely that you are immune from mental health concerns. Take care of yourself.
There were a few other COVID-related items worth highlighting this week. The first was this combination sun hat and face shield. My spouse is looking seriously at getting one, but for some reason I just cannot take it seriously. The company selling these hats has various other "Health Protection" items for sale, but the main categories of their products on their web site include "Spring Fashion" and "Accessory and Beauty" so I can't help but feel that this is nothing more than a cash grab.
60 Minutes broadcast an interview with Peter Navarro, who US President Trump appointed to lead the initiative to distribute Personal Protective Equipment. Watch that interview for a quick lesson in deflection and redirection, and to see pushback in action instead of leadership. In the end though, 60 Minutes comes out on top with this interview with their mic-drop moment when they highlighted their previous reporting on pandemic response after Navarro openly challenged their role and leadership.
And speaking of a lack of leadership, take a read of this article and a look at the picture below to see what happens when poor leaders lead poorly. Note the vitriol of the Trump supporters with their MAGA hats and their "Don't Tread on Me" flags, all because of the American cellular-level need for loudly protecting personal freedoms, rekindling the "age-old U.S. debate over government regulation vs. personal liberty", fueled by a leader who just cannot lead.
There is more to life, well my life at least, than COVID, so let's talk about something else for a while, shall we?
Cybersecurity is important to everyone, and I would be remiss if I did not pass on this note about CIRA's new Internet protection service they call "Canadian Shield". CIRA touts their DNS privacy service, ransomware blocking, and pornography filtering service as "enterprise-grade protection for all Canadians". It is super easy to setup and free. If you are Canadian and don't already have access to a similar service or commercial offering, there is no reason why you shouldn't configure your home network using CIRA's Canadian Shield settings.
There was a lot of reading in my life this week, and I was able to finish one small book. Book #14 for 2020 was Susan Sontag's "Illness as Metaphor", the third book in our social science reading group hosted by Adam Greenfield. We only read excerpts of the first two books, but this week we read the whole book from Sontag. To be fair, it clocked in at a paltry 88 pages, but I will count it as a full book regardless.
There was a lot of very powerful language in this book; language that made me think about the social "value" of diseases, and how two diseases can be viewed so differently. A lot of the book is focused on tuberculosis, and early in the book, Sontag discusses how the consumption and wasting comes from TB has lead to the skinny mindset in the twentieth century.
Twentieth-century women's fashions (with their cult of thinness) are the last stronghold of the metaphors associated with the romanticizing of TB in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
Sontag then contrasted the new waifish chic brought along by TB with how their male contemporaries stereotyped themselves.
Gradually, the tubercular look, which symbolized an appealing vulnerability, a superior sensitivity, became more and more the ideal look for women—while great men of the mid- and late nineteenth century grew fat, founded industrial empires, wrote hundreds of novels, made wars, and plundered continents.
I'm glad we read Sontag's book, but I couldn't help but feel it was dated. The book quotes Kafka a couple times as he ultimately died from TB in 1924. One quote from him from 1920 said that he had an illness of the mind that had moved to his body. Sontag's book was written in 1978, meaning there is a span of 58 years between his quote and Sontag's book. At present in 2020, there have been 41 years since Sontag wrote this book, which is getting close to the gap between Kafka and Sontag. Think how much has changed in collective thinking in those 41 years, and it seems that a 2020 Sontag book on the same topic would arrive at new conclusions.
It is unfortunate that Sontag passed away so many years ago, as it would be insightful to read a 2020 version with a new foreword by the author.
Lots of new words this week from a combination of War and Peace, The Count of Monte Cristo, Sontag's book discussed above, and a new science fiction book that I will hopefully be able to finish this week.
Hello from a snowy and icy 53.5° north latitude. It seems like each year we get freezing rain and snow early in the winter which means we end up suffering through icy, bumpy sidewalks all winter. Let's just say that 2019 did not ditch that trend and as a result, I should have had my studded tires on for the ride in to work on Friday.
You will notice that there was no post last week. This was due to the overwhelming crush of work for the launch of our new system. More on that below. Beyond that, there wasn't much to report so sit back, relax, and enjoy a few paragraphs on what has consumed most of my waking hours in the last several weeks, and most of my working hours for the last three years.
3, 2, 1, ...
For the past three years, my team has been preparing for the launch of the new clinical information system (CIS) at Alberta Health Services along with several other teams from across the organization. We wanted to make sure that every process we ran, every report that we produced, every requirement we had, was built into the CIS. We also said that if we didn't do something for CIS, then we didn't need to do it for anything else and we would therefore drop it from our workload.
The CIS vendor selected was Epic and the clinical transformation program built around the Epic platform became branded as Connect Care. We are a large organization and as a result what we launched last Sunday at 04:00 was just the first of a nine wave launch. As this story summarizes, Wave 1 is primarily concentrated in Edmonton’s Walter C. McKenzie health campus and laboratories, which includes the University of Alberta Hospital, Stollery Children’s Hospital and Mazankowski Alberta Heart Institute, among others.
The launch was not without drama though. The nurses union expressed "grave concerns" about the level of training and education received in advance of launch. Then a few days after launch, issues with delivery of lab results were noticed, and one physician alerted the media about the issue. Nothing is perfect of course, but I am proud of what we did to get to this point. Next week I plan to start a multi-week review of what my team did to prepare for Connect Care in the last three years. For now, congratulations to all of my colleagues who were involved in the successful launch!.
Just two new beers this past fortnight. The first was the Hudson Bay ISA from Smithers Brewery. Lots of grapefruit pith to add some dryness, with a nice hazy look, and a faint citrus aroma. Good stuff. (3.75 / 5) That got me the Veteran's Day (2019) and Pale as the Moon (Level 11) badges on Untappd. The second beer was the Wonder Star Botanical Lager from Flying Monkeys. I really liked this one since it had so much flavor. Smelled like Wine Gums, tasted like Red Lifesavers. (4.0 / 5). That one got me the Brewery Pioneer (Level 44) and The Great White North (Level 88) badges on Untappd.
Here is a picture of the Bernard Snell Hall in the University of Alberta Hospital. We have spent a lot of hours in this auditorium leading up to launch of the system, and even more in the last week as it hosts two of our bigger daily meetings. This picture was taken last Saturday afternoon before launch, and the quiet and emptiness of the room was haunting as I stood there.