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.
Happy Valentine's Day 2021 from 53.5° north latitude. We might be twelve days past Groundhog Day for the year, but the days really feel the same. Every day. Get up. Work. Go to bed. Maybe some variety pops into the day. Hey, time to buy groceries! Hey, a package was delivered to the house! I have mentioned on this blog that I feel uniquely suited to handle life during a pandemic due to the combination of my personal situation, job, and personality, but even I would like a change.
Once it warms up; Once it is lighter outside; Once we have a vaccine; Once we can travel again. All those onces. It is important to focus on what we have in the present how we can make do with that. I will not speak for you, but I at least need to be grateful for the flexibility I have in my life.
With that out of the way, the week that was had a few interesting points to discuss, a milestone in the cross-Canada virtual tour, and one new beer. No books finished this week but I expect one for sure will be done next week and quite possibly a second as well.
Internet and e-commerce law professor Michael Geist, posted an interesting entry on his blog about an Opposition member's motion in the House of Commons to amend Bill C-10 (Broadcasting Act). Conservative MP Michael Kram rose in the House and his comment was cheeky and wonderful.
"I think we could do Canadians a lot of good by withdrawing this bill and rewriting it from scratch to ensure that everyone is included in it and to ensure we have the best legislation we can for Canadians. Therefore, I would like to move the following amendment. I move:
Replacing every word after the opening "That" means that the entire Bill would be replaced. In other words, MP Kram is of the opinion that the Bill should be thrown out. I am not a fan of biased politicking and grandstanding in the House, but in this case MP Kram makes a good case. Geist has dissected Bill C-10 going so far as to label the Bill as a "Blunder". Geist's full analysis can be read on this page. Regardless of your feelings on the actions of MP Kram in the House, his actions drew attention to a flawed bit of proposed legislation. I recommend reading both posts from Geist.
Switching gears, I have a few comments about the creative work I am doing in support of my gaming and gamemastering. In the past year and a half, I have made a few posts with updates on the games I am leading and playing in. It has been four months since my last entry about this and in that last entry, I discussed player agency. I commented specifically how "I think the key is to provide lots of options for the players and to be prepared enough to be flexible if the players do something unexpected".
I have worked on making sure my players had as much agency as possible in the last four months. One tool that I really like is the point crawl system I read about on Mike Shea aka Sly Flourish's blog last month. The essence is there are multiple paths to get from A to B, but ultimately you want your players to get to B. Maybe they have an encounter along the way or find some shortcut. Or maybe they gain or lose something along the way that helps or hurts them when they finally get to B. That something could be an item, an ally, or maybe just some health.
In one of the campaigns I am currently running, they players are planning an attack on an enemy camp. They have four possible entrances and one ultimate goal. I will let them pick how they go and how they want to proceed once in the camp. But this is a game after all and roleplaying games require dice rolls. If they do nothing other than roll dice, it will take at least three rolls to get to their destination. If they actively engage with the situation they find themselves in, they can influence the rolls. And since it is a game, their actions and poor rolls can have some fun outcomes.
For what it is worth, here is the point crawl map I created for the upcoming session. The numbers represent my suggested required dice roll results. Red arrows are bad and provide a low percent chance of being spotted. The thick black arrows represent road that traverse the camp. The dotted brown arrow in the top right is my template that I will use to track their actual route.
Call me a wimp, but I am still riding inside due to the cold weather outside. Riding indoors has very little appeal for me, but I have discovered that watching my YouTube "Watch Later" playlist while cycling can make the endeavor bearable.
I hit the saddle five times this week and logged a virtual 67 km. The important note for this week is that I finished off Leg #3 and have virtually landed in Valemount (with a U), British Columbia. Valemount has a decent entry on Wikipedia that I encourage you to read. However, I would like to regale you with a story about my first trip to Valemount.
Back when I was in university, my alma mater had an annual Engineering Week which was just an excuse to drink wrapped in a veneer of school spirit and friendly competition. One event in Eng Week was a scavenger hunt, and it was a well-known fact that a cold six-pack of Kokanee was a perennial item on the list. Back in those uncivilized times, one could only purchase beer in Alberta that was brewed in Alberta. Weird, huh?
Armed with that knowledge, me and two friends decided to drive to British Columbia and buy as much Kokanee as we could on the eve of Eng Week. We were going to drive to Fernie and go skiing, but there was a blizzard and poor driving conditions so we decided that was not going to happen. We pulled out a map - remember, this was a LONG time ago - and looked for other towns in British Columbia that we could go to. Lo and behold, Valemount appeared on our map and at 06:00 the next morning, the three of us loaded into my 1978 Mustang II and drove to Valemount (with a U), returning later that day with 7.5 flats of Kokanee. I will not go into details how only one of us was of legal drinking age in British Columbia and only one of us had a credit card. And I will not go into details about how much money we made selling that beer to people back at school. But I will say that I cannot think of Valemount without thinking of that story.
Back to the cycling update, below is an updated view of my progress chart.
You will notice that I have plotted out Leg #4, from Valemount to Edmonton. The next 492 km is a fairly scenic route with a lot of familiar stops, at least for me. The map below gives some context of the trip for those of you unfamiliar with the route.
I dove into a lot of new music this week, as you can see in the Music Finds playlist for this week. In addition, I figured out why my embedded code links to my playlist always had the same four icons. Tidal uses the album icon for the first four songs in the playlist so starting this week, I will copy songs from the albums and put them at the start of the playlist in order to mix up the art work a bit.
The first album was a 2010 offering from Daniel Langois performing as Black Dub. Check out Langois's discography sometime - it just screams late 80's, but to be fair the variety of artists he worked with is staggering. Black Dub's self-titled album was definitely solid with "Silverado: and "Canaan" as strong songs with "Ring The Alarm" being the album standout.
Next up was "Forevergreens" from Swedish alt-jazz (is that a thing?) band Tonbruket. This definitely had a different vibe to it, but for the most part I liked it. "The Missing" and "Polka Oblivion" are both really good, especially the violin on Polka Oblivion.
The third album was "THE FUTURE BITES" by British prog rocker Steven Wilson. I said last week that I was not into that type of music, but this album might make me change my mind. The songs were not massively long with most under five minutes. "MAN OF THE PEOPLE" and "KING GHOST" were really good, and "PERSONAL SHOPPER" had subtle background vocals that highlight the foibles of mass consumption and consumerization.
The fourth album was a result of my digging into Phil Collins after learning that he celebrated his seventieth birthday, as I reported last week. Seconds Out is a live album recorded in Paris in 1976. This predates my experience with Genesis which started with Abacab in 1981. There was a few songs I liked but this was another album with long, drawn out songs. I just could not get into it.
Last up was an album I was really looking forward to but was disappointed in. Hey Clockface from Elvis Costello was something I was really looking forward to. At the end of November, I mentioned "No Flag", a song with Costello and Iggy Pop. Hey Clockface had a version of that song without Iggy Pop, so that was a let down, and maybe that soured my experience. I will give it another listen, but I am not hopeful.
Three for five this week. Not bad, especially given how many good songs there were on the three good albums.
Just one new beer this week. Beer #723 was the Conspiracy IPA from Yukon Brewing. There was a lot of flavor with this one and it was quite a mouthful, with lots of hoppy bitterness and some tart citrus. Picked up a bit of pepper on the backend as well, which was somewhat off-putting. Overall still pretty decent though. (3.25 / 5)
The denizens of 53.5° north latitude welcome you to the weekly blog. Or at least, I welcome you. It was a quiet week, with two new beers and one book finished. There was a lot of music listened to, but I want to get through it all one more time before I make any comments, so we will leave that for next week.
Let's get on with it, shall we?
Racism is ugly, dehumanizing, terrible. Reading about racism is difficult. Owning up to racist comments or actions is gut-wrenching. But talking about racism is absolutely necessary.
It is easy for us Canadians to talk about how terrible things are in the US, with their overtly racist President who presided over them for four years, and how many of their policies and actions are specifically designed to demean black people. So when I read this week's book, Book #3 for 2021, Professor Eddie S. Glaude Jr.'s "Begin Again: James Baldwin's America and its Urgent Lessons for our Own", I tried to reflect on what his book about America says about how Canada has historically, and presently, treats the Indigenous people.
Glaude talks about how the insistence of whites to be included in the future is ridiculous, given that they have never been EXcluded before. The insistence of expecting gratitude for providing rights and freedoms to black Americans is revolting, given that the black people should never have had those right and freedoms stripped from them in the first place. In Canada, this is reflected in how we have parceled out tiny bits of land for the Indigenous peoples and expected them to be happy that we gave them anything at all.
Glaude also talks about the need for truth and reconciliation, but how important it is that we know and speak the truth before we can reconcile. I was in my mid-thirties before I even HEARD the term "residential school", but at least in Canada we have started to speak the truth to what we have done. "Begin Again" highlights the lie and illusion of The American Dream and The Promised Land, both of which hide the truth of the racism in America.
The cries of "what about us" and "all lives matter" from whites underscores how distorted the racist view is. It is not that ONLY black lives matter, it is that THEY NEVER HAVE MATTERED in the eyes of so many people. The same could be true about how Indigenous people are viewed in Canada. As Glaude puts it:
... as if talking about a living wage and healthcare as a right, or affordable education, or equal pay for women, or equal rights for the LGBTQ community, or a fair criminal justice system, somehow excludes working-class white people.
Later in the book, Glaude discusses how Trump fits in to today's conversation about race and equality. The important point is that Trump "and his ideas are not exceptional." In other words, admit that America is racist. Admit that this hatred and demeaning of an entire population is a founding principle of America. Trump and "the people who support him are just the latest examples of the country's ongoing betrayal" of the promise of a true and equal democracy.
In Canada, the discussion a few years ago about what to do with the statues of Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, pointed out the brutality and cruelty of pretty much every white person in the mid 1800's. This article highlights some of the amazing and awful things done in the name of progress in Canada's earliest days. We are not much better than our neighbors to the south.
I encourage you to read this book, whether you are an American looking to understand your country, a Canadian looking to understand yours, or just someone trying to understand the world in order to start the work in building a better world.
Baldwin's words that Glaude used to title his book are the signal we need. It is not about looking in the past to demonize or glorify, but rather to look to the future and to Begin Again.
It was a decent week for riding. The time in the saddle is increasing, even as the distances decrease. Colder weather means slower speeds. Earlier this morning I went out for a one-hour ride in the -19° C weather and only averaged 15.7 km/hr due to the cold temperature. However, getting out a few times in the cold is more psychologically bolstering than it is a cardio boost.
I was able to complete the segment to Clearwater, B.C. Looking up interesting information on Wikipedia did not reveal too much, which is not surprising given the municipality only became official in 2007 and there are just over 2,000 people there. The one fact of note is that the hospital is named after John Sebastian Helmcken, a physician and politician that was key to negotiating British Columbia's entry into the Dominion of Canada in 1871.
Below is the updated image of my progress. I am unlikely to make it all the way to Blue River in this upcoming week, but Valemount (with a U) beckons in the distance.
Two new beers this week, one a pleasant surprise and one a disappointment. I will highlight the pleasant surprise first.
Beer #717 was the Lemon Lavender Radler from Yukon Brewing. Yukon is a brewery that I should pay more attention to. This radler was fantastic and I really, really liked it. It was sweet but not cloying, had nice citrus without the pith, and a smooth taste that was very refreshing. It was the highest rated beer in a long time. (4.0 / 5)
If I were asked to bet last week which beer I would like more before trying these, I would have swapped things around. Lemon and lavender does not sound that appealing to be honest, and the previous drinks from Fallentimber were all really good. Beer #718 was their Hopped Mead. I thought it tasted a bit burnt, and was not nearly as good as their other meads. I also realized that I have never checked in their Meadjito which is superb, so I will buy that again to grab a photo and a checkin. Not every product from a brewery, or in this case a meadery, is going to be perfect of course. One low rating should not take away from how good the rest of their product is. (3.0 / 5)
I will close out this week's entry with a few new words, most of which are from my ongoing catch-up of the words I flagged in 2020 as I read "War and Peace".
Greetings from 53.5° north. Another busy week with all of the COVID support work for the day job, interspersed with a few good rides, some good beer, and good music.
While I cannot, and will not, complain about my life, it is is remarkable how much it has shrunk. I went out today to buy a few groceries and it was the farthest I had been from my house in over a week, bike rides excepted. That might not seem like a big deal, but the grocery store is 1900 m from my house. I am reaching out virtually farther from my house to connect with others than I ever have, but more and more, I am not physically reaching out. I have to wonder if I will be able to connect in person if this continues for another year.
But then again, maybe connecting in person is not something that I really want to do. There was some nasty business years in the making at the US Capitol, and close to home there were pro-Trump rallies. I really do not understand this. Trump is American and we are Canadian. What will a protest in Red Deer, Calgary, or anywhere in Canada do to help support any attempts to overturn the US election? My guess is that those protests were less about Trump directly and more about white solidarity.
I will leave that discussion for now at least and post this image. Imagine being a black police officer looking at that mob.
It was a good week in the saddle. I cycled for 72 km this week, putting my monthly total at 101 km. More importantly, at least with respect to my virtual cross-Canada tour, I finished the leg from Vancouver to Kamploops. I have now cycled 863 km since I started keeping track in pursuit of the virtual tour.
Next up is Kamloops to Valemount. Just an FYI as it was news to me that it is "Valemount" and not "Valemont". This third leg will be 322 km and only has four segments. If you have driven this stretch of highway, you know there are very few towns and settlements along the way. Lots of great scenery, but that is it.
Some fun facts about Kamloops according to Wikipedia. The population of the census metropolitan area is over 100,000 people. The word Kamploops is the anglicized version of the Shuswap word "Tk'əmlúps", meaning "meeting of the waters". Kamloops is technically in a desert, and average temperatures for this time of year are just above freezing. The regional airport in Kamploops has the airport code of YKA.
The images below are the updated chart of the legs and segments to date, and a map view of the next leg to Valemount (with a U, remember that!).
The last few weeks have really seen me get into jazz. This week that trend continues with a bit of journey into swing and R&B.
The first find in the Music Finds playlist this week was the album "HH" from Lionel Loueke. HH is short for Hang Up Your Hang Ups. I assume that at least since Hang Up Your Hang Ups is the first song on the album. Loueke is a jazz guitarist from Benin and I love his style. The HH track I mentioned above, Cantaloupe Island, Watermelon Man and more are all really good songs. I added the songs and the album to my Tidal favorite list so looking forward to seeing more from him and seeing his music influence my feed.
The second find was the album with the journey into swing and R&B. "Last Man on Earth" by Big Boss Man is a fifteen-track album with great guitar, a bright horn section, vocals from multiple guest artists, and a nice clean percussion in the background. I favorited a third of the album so I will definitely be listening to more from Big Boss Man in the future. Note that this was a 2014 recording, so new to me but not new.
Two new beers this week, both from Alley Kat. First up and coming in as Beer #711 was the latest in their Dragon Double IPA series, the Loral Dragon. This one had a striking amber color and had a nice maltiness. I found the taste had a bit too much pepper in it which took away from the malt and the hops. Still pretty good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
The second beer and coming in as Beer #712 was their 2020 Holiday beer. This year Alley Kat brewed up a Milk Stout which was a nice change. There was a nice creaminess in this as you would expect from a milk stout but it could have used a bit more flavor. I compared it to the Situation Iconic Milk Stout which I rated at 4.0 out of 5 and this was close but not as good. As with the Loral, still pretty good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
I was going to catch up on a few words I have flagged in War and Peace, but I thought it would be appropriate to only have one word this week. If there was anything good out of the US Capitol Insurrection, it was that I learned a new word watching the news reports. Many of the media reports discussed how Trump had "fomented" the rioters. Apparently you can foment or ferment discord and rebellion, but you cannot forment it (with an r) as forment is not a word.
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]
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 a snowed-in 53.5° north latitude. The snow fell hard on Friday night and then through Saturday. It was not a snowfall of record amounts, but the amount raised the question of whether or not it was a blizzard. A quick search on The Weather Network came up with this handy mnemonic of the 4-4-4 Rule. Winds over 40 km/hr, visibility less than 400 m, lasting for 4 or more hours. So yeah, we had our first blizzard of the season.
The other big news, arguably way bigger than a simple blizzard, was the US election. After waiting for votes to be counted in Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Nevada, the election was finally called for Joe Biden. Now Biden might not be your guy, just as Trump might not be your guy. But regardless of who won, there are some really interesting and important concepts being discussed this week because of the election.
The first came on election night on the 538 election live blog. 538 contributor Julie Azari commented on how much energy was being expended in discussing the shortcomings and nuances of the US electoral college system, and how little was being discussed about the actual issues.
The other point that really stuck with me was the post from 538 Editor-in-Chief Nate Silver about the average voter versus the average reader of 538.
With a caution about stereotyping, I think the guy in the "BBQ, Beer, Freedom" shirt in this news clip pretty much sums up average. Don't believe me? Remember that in this election Donald Trump became just the second presidential candidate to receive over 70 million votes. Barack Obama won 69.5 million in 2008 which was the record until this year.
I have to say how much I admire the man in the purple polo shirt. Joe Gloria, the election registrar for Clark County, was holding a press conference when the "BBQ, Beer, Freedom" guy interrupted by yelling how Biden was stealing the election. Gloria calmly let the man yell, waited for him to leave, and then turned back to the reporters and said, "Where were we? What was the last question?" That is a real pro doing his job.
Switching gears, I had never heard of Eddie S. Glaude Jr. before election day, but this 2'58" speech from 2019 was in the feed of several people on Twitter during election day. Glaude's speech was so powerful and so passionate that I immediately proceeded to buy his latest book. Watch the whole clip and feel the pain in Glaude's words. That hatred that causes that level of pain is what Trump released in America.
There was not much else happening this week beyond some cycling, great music, and some new beers. I did a lot of reading, including Glaude's newest book mentioned above, but did not finish any books.
It was a pretty good week for cycling. I had three solid rides including one after work on Friday that beat the blizzard by a couple hours. I might hop on the stationary bike in the basement and crank out a couple more segments, but the image below charts my progress as of the time of writing (just after noon on Sunday).
I really enjoyed a number of songs I put into my latest Music Finds playlist. The latest album called "Arm in Arm" by Steep Canyon Rangers was enjoyable, with Sunny Days, A Body Like Yours, and Afterglow being really solid listens. I do not think it was as good as their 2015 album "Radio", but still worth a listen.
"Azymuth JID004" (JID standing for Jazz is Dead) has a song called "Friendship Samba" that popped up in my Tidal feed that I really enjoyed. I need to put the whole album in my playlist for next week. This album is an collaboration between a Brazilian jazz band nearly as old as me (Azymuth), A Tribe Called Quest's Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Adrian Younge, who is a composer, producer, and (wait for it) law professor. Some serious talent on this album.
I also gave "Existential Reckoning" a listen on a recommendation from a friend. Maynard James Keenan, front for Tool, put together Puscifer to explore his 'darker and more personal musings" according the artist bio on Tidal. I did not find the album to be my style, although I do admit "Apocalyptical" was pretty catchy, so maybe the entire album will grow on me after another listen through.
The best find for this week almost went to a cover of Leonard Cohen's "There is a War", done by Nathaniel Rateliff, Kevin Morby, and Sam Cohen (apparently no relation to Leonard). This cover has it all, from a great opening guitar note, scratchy solo vocals, and retro vocal harmonics in the chorus. Really great stuff, and easily my favorite single in recent weeks. With this single and his February 2020 release that I mentioned back in July, Rateliff might be my favorite artist of the year.
But even better than that was another release from Art Blakey. Earlier this week, I thought I should play that new release of material from 1959 that I also mentioned in July. I typed in "Art Blakey" into the search field in Tidal because I could not remember the name of the album (Just Coolin', as it turns out) and was excited and shocked to see five (FIVE!) more releases this year since "Just Coolin'" was released in July. I only had time to listen to to "Flapping Wings" but I will get to the rest later. Flapping Wings was great, and solidified Blakey in my mind as one of the greatest jazz drummers of all time.
I will not admit to day drinking due to the US election, but I will let you draw your own conclusions based on your experiences in the last week. Three news beers, and I was pretty happy with all three.
Beer #695 was the Leisure Lagoon Hazy Pale Ale from Coronado Brewing. A whole lotta grapefruit and pith. More translucent than hazy, as in not a lot of suspended particles. Very nice. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #696 was the Black Tusk Ale from Whistler Brewing Company. Whistler is pretty hit-and-miss for me, and actually more miss than hit. The first seven beers I checked in average slightly over 3.1 out of 5, which is significantly lower than my average of 3.2-ish. It was therefore a pleasant surprise that I liked the Black Tusk as much as I did. It was dark and malty, with a bit of bitterness in a good way. I might have rated it higher because I was excited to get back into the dark, heavy beers of winter, but this was still good even with that bias. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #697 and the final check-in for the week was the Pater Dubbel / Abbey Brown Ale from Corsendonk out of Belgium. This had big brown foam, with a bit of booziness in a good way. and a bit of caramel. Smooth and easy to drink even at that ABV. Good stuff. (3.75 / 5)
I am closing in on 700 check-ins on Untappd. As that is a fairly significant milestone, I think I will throw them a few bucks again to get the updated stats. It would be interesting to see how my average rating has fluctuated over the past five and a half years. My guess is that it has gone down, with my ranking of lagers going up over that same period. We will see how well that holds up under detailed scrutiny.
Just two new words this week. But after this week, I can tell you I am begging for a break from the news and politics in Canada and the US so that I can get back to reading more, and therefore finding more new words.
Greetings once again from 53.5° north latitude. It was a quiet week, at least in terms of relevance to a weekly blog. Lots of reading but nothing finished, three new beers, and no new words.
Of more importance than anything else this week, there continues to be significant discussion about racism, injustice, and police violence. There was a really powerful op-ed in the last Saturday's LA Times written by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, titled "Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge". The imagery Abdul-Jabbar evokes is staggering. The massive pain and anger caused by not just (just, that's quite the word) a single death, but of generations of systemic racism. The disproportionate impact of COVID on black communities. The concerted efforts to stop black from voting.
Because you realize it’s not just a supposed “black criminal” who is targeted, it’s the whole spectrum of black faces from Yonkers to Yale.
That op-ed is not the only commentary we are receiving. Media organizations here at home are helping communicate that this isn't an issue just for the US to deal with; we have ample problems right here.
CKUA (Disclaimer: I serve on the CKUA Board) is supporting the black and indigenous communities on air. I heard Leeroy Stagger voice his support on his weekly show on Saturday, and on Tuesday CKUA paused their "online presence for the day so that meaningful real-world conversations can take place about race, unity and healing." The commercial radio stations are also contributing to the conversation with sixty second spots highlighting the importance of standing up and confronting racism and injustice and being an ally. (One I heard was unfortunately diminished in impact as it was followed by an ad for a windshield repair firm purporting that they provide an essential services during the pandemic. But it is a start.)
Is it possible that something will finally change? Have these issues finally reached enough minds and hearts to actually affect change. I hope so and will commit to doing more to help in any way I can, even if this isn't something that keeps its momentum.
The three beers I mentioned at the start of this entry are actually a beer and a cider from Collective Arts and a beer from a collaboration of two Alberta breweries.
From Collective Arts, I had their Local Press cider and their Audio / Visual Lager. The cider was crisp and clean cider and very easy drinking. (3.75 / 5) The lager was well put-together but wasn't particularly memorable. (3.25 / 5). Even with that last comment, I want to highlight how good a brewery Collective Arts is. I bought eight singles from Collective Arts at the start of this COVID era and am now finished the lot. I had a few misses, but for the most they were all very solid offerings. My ratings for those eight averaged over 3.6 out of 5, and overall the fourteen beers I have had of theirs average 3.7 out of 5. I would have to download the stats from Untappd and do some proper analysis, but from these numbers I am confident that Collective Arts is one of my top three brewers.
The other beer I tried this week was the Beautiful Apex Hermoso Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout collab between Apex Predator and Ol' Beautiful Brewing. I just couldn't get into this one. I don't think it was badly done, but it just wasn't my thing. (3.0 / 5) I know spicy chocolate is supposed to be a thing, but I have never liked it.
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.
Greetings from an absolutely frigid 53.5° north latitude. We have entered into a cold weather stretch that is too cold to ride a bike in as the bike components themselves freeze. There isn't much to do but stay inside and read, which I did a lot of this week. The main accomplishment this week beyond getting back to work was to finish four books. So let's get into what I read and the other few interesting tidbits from this past week.
China's Influence on Canada:
There was a lot said in the media in 2019 about China and in particular about whether to allow Chinese made (and Chinese Communist Party-owned) Huawei telecommunications equipment into Canada. I commented in November and July on this site. The source of my commentary in July was an article from the MacDonald-Laurier Institute on some of the myths in the Huawei case, and they have continued to provide commentary in their December issue of their Inside Policy magazine. Inside Policy picks the Canadian Policymaker of the year, and this year they awarded the title to Xi Jinping, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). In the eyes of the MacDonald-Laurier Institute, Xi's influence over Canadian politics in the last several years has been vast and sweeping, The article claims that Xi has forced Canada's hand in foreign policy more than any other leader, including the US President, and have caused our government to weaken our backing of international rule of law and human rights. If half of what said is true and not xenophobic fearmongering, then it is hard to ignore their claim. It is also hard to ignore the economic impact of such a large market, which is precisely why we find ourselves in this position.
If you need a more relatable analysis of the impact of Xi, the CCP, or Huawei, understand that Huawei continues to sponsor Hockey Night in Canada.
Moving on to better news, this week saw a series of books fall from the daunting heights of my Reading Pile and into the small but growing Read Pile. Four books were completed, with three of those having commenced in the waning days of 2019. Let's move on to the four.
The first book, Book #1 for 2020, was "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", by Mohsin Hamid. This was a unique book in that it portrayed one side of a conversation taking place over several hours in Lahore, Pakistan, between a Pakistani who used to live in America, and an American visiting Lahore. There was a small and ever-growing tension in the conversation cleverly built by subtle hints and comments. The reader was, or at least I was, constantly wondering what would happen between the two individuals. Would there be violence, or would the two find common ground and become if not friends, then at least companions?
I highly recommend this book if for no other reason than it challenged several stereotypes I have, some that I was conscious of, and others I was not. If you have read this novel, please reach out as I would love to discuss it with someone. I'll leave you with a wonderful quote from the novel. It wasn't particularly pertinent to the story or its underlying tension, but it struck me as I read it.
"Time only moves in one direction. Remember that. Things always change." --"The Reluctant Fundamentalist", by Mohsin Hamid
Book #2 for 2020 was "All Systems Red: The Murderbot Diaries" by Martha Wells. This was an extremely quick read, coming in at 140 small pages.
The protagonist and narrator is an augmented human designed to be an It instead of a Person, but it has decidedly human impulses and concerns. It was really enjoyable and thoroughly unique, and I definitely recommend it, especially in between larger or more emotionally demanding books.
Book #3 for 2020 was the second book in the Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's series, "The Restaurant at the End of the Universe". This was a second, or maybe third, reading for me, and this was one that I read with Daughter 1. Definitely funny, definitely quirky, definitely thought-provoking, but not quite as laugh-out-loud enjoyable as Hitchhiker's. Even so, well worth reading and sharing.
Last up for this week, Book #4 for 2020 was "The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library". This is one of the books up for a Young Reader's Choice Award at the local library system, and was written by one of the best Young Adult books I have read with my daughter's, that being Linda Bailey and "Seven Dead Pirates". I read Pirates before I started this site, so I unfortunately don't have anything to link to for that book, but I do suggest reading it. Anyway, back to Tiny Hero, this might seem like a trivial book to read even for Daughter 2, but it really was delightful. The characters were great, the story was believable as could be given that the tiny hero is in fact a green bug, and most importantly, the author's love for books and reading really shines through. We immediately grabbed one of the books discussed in Tiny Hero to be next in our readings - stay tuned next week to find out which one.
Just one new beer this week. Sea Change is a great local brewery and I have posted about a few of their beers in past months. This week I had The Wolf, which is their Pale Ale. It was pretty decent, but didn't have a ton of flavor. It did smell nice with a definite citrus punch to it. It wasn't up to par with some of their other offerings, but it was still good.
Surprisingly few words this week given that four books were crushed, but I suppose that it was easier reading this week than with finishing off something by Jared Diamond. Maybe more surprising is that very few of the words are from "War and Peace" or "The Count of Monte Cristo", which highlights that the hardest part of both novels is their size and not their required level of reading comprehension.