Greetings once again from 53.5° north latitude. A few days in San Francisco was a nice change, but I am really finding each trip harder to take. The level of poverty intermingled with the monied and privileged highlights the vast differences between the haves and the havenots. Maybe it is that bad here, or maybe it is just more noticeable there because there is less physical distance between the groups. Or maybe the lack of social supports and safety nets in California and the US more broadly has pushed more and more people into a life of brutal poverty.
Beyond the philosophizing instigated by the combination of seeing poverty up close and of participating in a conference with some of the top people in my industry, I was able to finish one book, I tried four new beers, and learned a handful of new words. Let's dive in.
Book #10 for 2020 was Cal Newport's "So Good They Can't Ignore You". This book has the subtitle "Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest For Work You Love". That subtitle contains the most important lesson from the book and is repeated almost ad nauseum throughout the book. Get good at what you do, and give that quality to the world, instead of demanding that the world give you what you want because it matches what you love to do. When put that way, it really highlights how selfish the passion-driven view of life can be if unchecked.
Newport has several other lessons in this book, but they all stem from his personal realization that finding passion prior to finding competence is a recipe for failure, disappointment, and likely even financial ruin. Going the other way, from competence to opportunity and then finally to happiness will take time, which is why the pursuit of passion is so alluring. I can be happy and fulfilled tomorrow, or I can work hard, maybe for years, and then I'll be happy. It isn't surprising that Newport would run into resistance with his theory of happiness because it requires hard work, a lot of time, and the development of an expertise in your vocation.
Another point that really impacted me was Newport's focus on deliberate practice. Instead of working on something, really work on it, Push yourself, set ambitious goals, but most of all, focus. Newport argues that those who can focus on their work, art, or skills, are the people that really excel. Practice makes perfect, but deliberate practice will get you to success and ultimately happiness much sooner.
The first beer was Drake's 1500 Pale Ale. Definitely good with a fair bit of hops, but it was a stereotypical pale ale with not a lot of body or punch beyond that. (3.25 / 5) The second was a collab between two Edmonton breweries, Sea Change and Campio. I have posted about Sea Change a few times on this site, and they produce some solid beers. This was my first Campio though. Campio is the last component of the Albeerta family and that in itself is enough to support Edmonton's newest brewery. The collab in question was the Mandarin Crush Lager, which is another beer that is challenging my dislike for lagers. It is clear that done well, a lager can definitely be worth drinking. This lager in particular had a nice orange aroma but could have used a bit more orange taste. (3.5 / 5)
Rounding out the week were smaller samples of two other fruit beers. First was a Grapefruit IPA from 4 Mile Brewing in View Royal, British Columbia. (Where? Here.) Lots of fresh taste with a good pop of hops. Nice stuff. And to round out the week, the Strawberry Fruit Ale from Samuel Smith. Once again, Samuel Smith produced a very good beer. I posted about their Chocolate Stout two weeks ago. This was pretty much the exact opposite of their chocolate stout being a much lighter fruit beer. It had amazing aroma and a very nice taste. A beer that tasted like fruit juice without being syrupy and cloying. Really good stuff. (4.0 / 5)
Not a lot of new words this week, but the ones I did learn were quite varied.
Hello once again from 53.5° north latitude. It is post-Sunday supper as I write this, and it is a chilly and misty evening. A week past labor day and it feels like Halloween. But alas, the weather can only bring us down if we choose to let it. There was lots of good stuff this week, so let's dive in.
Your Daily Dose of Cynicism:
Let's start off with quote from a person with a decidedly cynical view on people. The cashier at a local liquor store said that if I didn't need a bag that would be good because "these bags hold up like most people's promises". I spontaneously laughed and immediately thought I should write it down, but after I did, I felt sorry for the cashier If that is his outlook on life. I am certainly a glass-half-empty person, and have often said that sometimes it feels like my glass broke last week. However, I work hard on being as positive as possible and that conscious effort takes a lot of work. I see in him a bit of who I was not so many years ago, and I know how living with a negative outlook makes life so much harder.
I regained some of my reading momentum in the last week, which makes me feel quite good. I had to jettison a couple books because I just didn't feel compelled when I picked them up. I will invariably try to read them again in the future, but for now, I had to move on.
My week was spent reading a good portion of "Homo Deus" by Yuval Noah Harari. I am finding Homo Deus to be similar in style to "Sapiens", also by Harari, in that it is informative, thought-provoking, and incredibly accessible. The commentary about the treatment of animals stemming from our dominant monotheistic religions has really made me think about religion and even our contemporary humanism. Even his minor thought experiment and context-setting-aside about suburban lawns was thought-provoking enough for me to put the book down and think for a while. To me, that is the sign of a great book.
The premise of the book is about what humans will become based on our technology and outlook as of 2016. At the end of the second chapter, Harari talks about how we are becoming more reflective about the fate of the animals around us potentially because we are about to be left behind by the next evolution in humanity.
We are suddenly showing unprecedented interest in the fate of so-called lower life forms, perhaps because we are about to become one. If and when computer programs attain superhuman intelligence and unprecedented power, should we begin valuing these programs more than we value humans? Would it be okay, for example, for an artificial intelligence to exploit humans and even kill them to further its own needs and desires? if it should never be allowed to do that, despite it superior intelligence and power, why is it ethical for humans to exploit and kill pigs?
Also this week, I finished "Jed and the Junkyard War" with my younger daughter. I picked up a copy at the local library and noted with chagrin that it was published by Disney (technically Disney Hyperion, whoever they are). I was concerned that the book would be overly commercial and saccharine, but it was definitely not that. It was good enough for me to recommend it to you, and good enough for us to look forward to diving in to the sequel.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is not Worth the Effort:
There I said it. I have now watched Endgame, and 20 other MCU movies. The only missing one is Captain Marvel, but I don't think I missed too much of the overall plot by skipping that one. I think with the investment of time it took to watch all of those movies, and in a few cases rewatch (because apparently you have to watch them in order and no one told me that until like 2014), plus all the time I spent reading plot summaries to figure out what the hell I missed from movie to movie, I feel confident that I am entitled to the opinion that I wasted my time.
I applaud the effort and moxie it took to pull all those story lines together, not to mention all of those talented actors, directors, and writers. But really, in the end, why? Cynically of course, one can point to the money. According to the IMDB link above, Endgame cost $356 million to make, but made all of that back in the first weekend in the US alone, and then went on to rake in nearly $2,8 billion since release.
But that is why the studio made the movie, not why anyone should watch it. Is it worth 50+ hours of your time, and $125 of your money, assuming you rent each movie online? I don't think it was. It was overly complicated and could really only be understood if you fully immersed yourself in it. There were a few funny scenes, and a few scenes that were even moving, but overall I just didn't feel ... satisfied. I didn't feel like cheering the heroes or lamenting the fallen. At the end, it was just ... over. And thankfully at that.
My wife thinks it is cheating to look up something in order to solve a crossword puzzle. I have a different viewpoint. I agree that looking up specific clues just to get the answer does seem a little off-putting, However, looking up "1925 trial name" and then finding out about the Scopes trial in Tennessee is different, at least in my mind. In the former case, all the search does is give one an answer without the requisite knowledge. In the latter, I can now say I understand how it was illegal to teach evolution in state-funded schools at that time in Tennessee, and how the trial was really about modernists versus fundamentalists. As the Wikipedia article liked to above notes, it was "a theological contest and a trial on whether modern science should be taught in schools". So yeah, totally not cheating.
Two new beers this week. First was the Common Crown Ploughman Hopped Wheat Ale. This was a decent beer from a quality brewer. Second was the Sea Change Irish Red Ale, which is a hazy, malty brew with a higher punch than one might think for a 5.0% ABV. That is a similar comment to what I said for Sea Change's Session Ale a couple weeks ago. I'll have to investigate further if there is something in their malt or yeast that I am consistently picking up on. The only badge this week from Untapped was The Great White North (Level 86).
The new words picked up this week as a direct result of reading Harari's book. Plus there was at least one that was checked just to make sure, and one repeat.