Greetings from ... somewhere?
For quite some time, I have opened this weekly blog with something in the vein of "Greetings from 53.5° north latitude". However, this week I became concerned that maybe I am not actually at 53.5°. Take a look at these different results.
These first two come from a Bing search of "latitude of Edmonton". The image below comes from the same search term on Google.
Which is the correct answer? One might be able to account for the difference between Bing and Google because, I don't know, Microsoft versus Google? That seems like a bad reason of course, but doing the math it becomes obvious the difference between 53.5461° on Google and 53.54624° on Bing is small enough to be ignored. (Assuming an average of 111 km as the distance between lines of latitude, this comes out to about 15 m of difference.) Both are clearly well within the city limits of Edmonton and the difference between the two is likely which side of the street you define the center of the city to be.
To further confound the problem though, the reason I noticed this was because I launched Google Earth for the first time in quite a while and I noticed that 53.5° is nowhere near "Edmonton" when viewed via the lens of Google Earth. The image below is snapped from Google Earth with the latitude line layer overlaid for easy reference.
Next I checked the Wikipedia page for Edmonton and from there linked to me to this page which linked various different references for the geographic location of Edmonton and has this handy image and table of information.
Looking at this page, I realized my problem - I had mixed my units when comparing the various sources. The Google Earth image is shown in Degrees / Minutes / Seconds, or DMS. You can see from the image above that Edmonton is centered at 53° 32' as that latitude runs right through the downtown core. In Decimal notation, 53° 32' translates to 52.53°.
So. Problem solved and lesson learned. Without further ado, greetings, and welcome from a confirmed 53.5° north latitude. This week's entry will be a bit shorter than it could be, mainly because I am writing this late on Sunday after having spent most of the weekend trying to sell a car via Kijiji. I will focus on the one book I finished, my cycling update, and the new words. The four new beers this week and writeups about skills, COVID, and cryptocurrencies will be carried over to next week.
I was able to finish one book this week, this one being the second book I have read by food writer and journalist, Michael Pollan. Book #10 for 2021 was "The Omnivore's Dilemmna: A Natural History of Four Meals". This was a book that terrified me with its descriptions of industrial food production. It was not descriptions of what happens in industrial scale slaughterhouses that terrified me, as terrible as that is, and neither was it the descriptions of the dietary impacts of cheap corn, as harmful as they are.
No, it was the fear of the monoculture that modern agriculture supports that really scared me. If you have ever flown across the prairies in recent years, most of the farmland one can see at any point in a journey is of a single plant. In most cases around Edmonton, it is canola. In others it is soy and corn, with industrial corn production being the focus of much of Pollan's book.
Concerns about monoculture were not new to me, but Pollan really highlighted the importance of the issue. The vicious cycle of a single crop that requires lots of fertilizer, with no ability for the soil to regenerate and no animals or insects to aerate, fertilize, and nurture it and help it thrive. In addition, modern agriculture is a volume game, so bigger seems better, meaning annoyance like hills and trees need to be removed, and there resulting barren landscape exposes the soil which becomes more vulnerable to wind erosion. Modern industrial agriculture, as pointed out by Pollan, will say this is fine because we can make the soil more viable by pumping more fertilizer into it. However, to use a word Pollan used several times, that is a reductive way of looking at the problem because fertilizer production requires lots of fossil fuels and therefore produces lots of greenhouse gases.
While reading Pollan's critique of industrial corn, I kept thinking about what we are doing to the planet and the image that kept coming was the farm scenes at the start of "Interstellar", and how Matthew McConaughey had to wear a mask to go outside due to the awful dust storms. Are we creating that inevitability of a dying planet that can only be saved by the sudden appearance of a wormhole, all because of a capitalist need for profits and a consumeristic need to constantly pay less for everything? We want more and we want it cheaper, and that is all that matters? (See this link for other entries about capitalism.)
Pollan highlights one solution that might be an answer if not the answer, but it is radical in the extreme at least by what we think of today as conventional wisdom driven by capitalism. I will leave it to you as a reader to read about and analyze that potential solution yourself, as even if I had the time and space to summarize it here, I doubt I could do it as eloquently as Pollan did in his book. Suffice it to say that I think we should give the alternatives to industrial agriculture a significant amount of focus and brain power. Even if the current solutions are not globally scalable, they should be able to provide inspiration for ideas that may be.
Pollan also wades into the ethics of eating meat. In my mind, eat meat or not, that is your choice. But I think his words in the following quote (page 405 from the paperback version of the book) are an interesting take on the subject.
If there is any shame in that destruction (my note: of killing an animal), only we humans seem to feel it, and then only on occasion. But cooking doesn't only distance us from our destructiveness, turning the pile of blood and guts into a savory salami, it also symbolically redeems it, making good our karmic debts: Look what good, what beauty, cam come of this! Putting a great dish on the table is our way of celebrating the wonders of form we humans can create from this matter - this quantity of sacrificed life - just before the body takes its first destructive bite.
This was a really good week for cycling, and I did not even get a ride in on the weekend end. I hit 80 km by Friday in three rides and explored parts of the city that I may never have been to, and certainly have not been to since I moved here officially after university.
I made it to Vegreville on my virtual cross-Canada cycling tour this week. Vegreville is a nice town, one that I spent a lot of time in when I was an independent consultant as I had multiple clients there. In the years since I stopped consulting, I have only been back two or three times, and with younger kids at the time, each visit to Vegreville required a stop by the pysanka. As per the Wikipedia entry, a pysanka is a decorated Ukrainian Easter egg decorated with Ukranian folk designs. Pysanka can be beautiful objects, and we have several in our house. An image search of Vegreville comes up with mainly images of the massive pysanka erected in Vegreville.
Next up on the cross-Canada tour is Vermilion. I probably would have made it there this week if not for the Kijiji focus all weekend. I doubt I will make it all the way to Lloydminster this week, but that might happen if I can get four good rides in.
The updated progress chart is shown below.
Just one new word this week, that being the first one. The rest are the last tranche of words from "The Splendid and The Vile" that I finished a handful of weeks ago.
chaffing (present participle)
[im·pe·ti·go | \ ˌim-pə-ˈtē-(ˌ)gō , -ˈtī- \]
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 well met. 53.5° north latitude welcomes you both from this blog and as the latest destination in my cross-Canada virtual cycling tour. The week was also witness to the completion of one book and the consumption of three new beers. No new words were logged, but I still have a number to catch up on from my reading of the story of Winston Churchill during the early days of World War II. Diving in commences in three, two, one, ...
I was able to finish one book this week, but it came at the cost of a bit of running around. Book #9 for 2021 was "Pharaohs" by Terry Pratchett, the seventh book in the wonderfully imaginative Discworld series. I had the ebook from my local library and the loan expired with about thirty pages left. I was left to drive to another branch to grab a physical copy so that I could finish it.
Pharaohs is another funny Discworld story, and is nearly completely standalone from the first six books in the series. There is a physical location that is repeated from other novels, but none of the characters have appeared in any of the previous books. This is good in how it fleshes out the world more, but somewhat disappointing because I would love to know what happens to Rincewind or Luggage or the Wyrd Sisters.
Beyond that, this was another good story with numerous laugh-aloud moments. Seven books done in the series, thirty-three to go. I am looking forward to reading each of them and already sad that I know the series is finite.
This morning, I virtually rode into and slightly past Edmonton. In 186 days since I started logging my rides towards the goal of virtually crossing Canada, I have traveled 1681 km over 108 rides for an average of 15.57 km per ride. That is up from the 15.36 km average I posted just last week, so clearly my rides are getting longer.
The following image shows the map of the next leg - Edmonton to Lloydminster. This is by far the shortest leg to date, but I feel Lloydminster is an appropriate goal since it is on the border with Saskatchewan. The first segment to Elk Island National Park is only 53 km, and with the carryover from my most recent ride, I am already 3.6 km done.
The next image shows the progress to date on the first four legs in the virtual tour. Note that the Edmonton - Lloydminster leg shows up as 261 km on Bing Maps as noted above, but the Edmonton - Elk Island - Vegreville - Vermillion - Lloydminster leg with the stops logged along the way comes in at 264 km. I will be going with the larger number for the tour.
Now that I am back on segments that are less familiar (to me) than the leg between Jasper and Edmonton, I will continue the "fun facts" updates for each destination along the way.
I had three new beers this week, all from great Alberta breweries.
Beer #743 was the Cloudburst from Calgary's Cabin Brewing, which was described on the label as "tart blueberry and lemon ale with vanilla and lactose". This was a fantastic beer. The lactose provided a wonderful creaminess which was nicely offset by the tartness. Plus that startling dark red color was wonderful. If Cabin keeps this up, they are going to supplant Collective Arts as my favorite non-Alley Kat brewery. (4.0 / 5)
Beer #744 was the Tumbling Tide Tripel from Dandy Brewing, once again in Calgary. This silky and smooth beer did a wonderful job of hiding the high tripel level ABV of 8.5%. It also had a nice lacy foam and aroma. (3.5 / 5)
Last up and coming in as Beer #745 was the Full Circle Roggenbier from Blindman Brewing in Lacombe. I had no idea what a roggenbier was, so lucky I found this web page that asked "What the Hell is a Roggenbier?". I learned that roggen is German for rye and a roggenbier is a beer brewed with a high percentage of rye malt and a low amount of hops. I really liked the use of rye and the clove added a nice spice that I typically equate with winter stouts but worked really well with this lower ABV beer. From reading the label though, I had no idea who brewed it. (3.5 / 5)
All of the words this week are still from "The Splendid and The Vile" from a few weeks ago. Well, technically there were a bunch of new words in "Pharaohs", but they will all words Terry Pratchett made up.
riven (past participle)
calumniated (past tense) · calumniated (past participle)
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude, a part of the world straddling alternate dimensions of eternal spring and eternal winter. Hey, it's nice! Hey, it's snowing! Where did that wind come from?
Beyond suffering through the vagaries of weather, the week was pretty quiet. I have decided to run a game of Tomb of Annihilation for the group of friends I am currently playing Curse of Strahd with. I am contemplating creating a blog with a series of prep session notes for Tomb. If I do, I will post a link here.
On top of the prep work for Tomb, I finished one book, hit the century mark for rides in my cross-Canada virtual trip, and tried two new beers from my favorite brewery. Let's dive in.
Book #8 for 2021 is a re-read of the fifth Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix". This was something my younger daughter and I started reading on January 1 and I am pretty impressed that we ploughed through 764 pages in eighty-five days.
If you have read the series, you will know this is the longest of the seven books and it is definitely the darkest book so far in the series. The lamentable Harry Potter does not have much true hope for the first 7644 pages but I felt pretty good for him at then end.
It is hard to do much of a review of the fifth book in any series without going into significant detail that would spoil the other books in the series. Suffice it to say that this was an emotional rollercoaster. It is also the last Harry Potter book that I have read (or listened to) multiple times. Later this year we will dig into the next book in the series, and I will do so with relatively fresh eyes having not read it for about fifteen years.
I made really good distance this week on my bike, including a ride with my summer bike on Saturday that ended up being a fairly snowy affair after about half way through the ride. No segments or legs were completed this week, but I should be able to finish off the Edson - Edmonton portion next week.
I was comparing cycling notes with my friend Bryan earlier this week and I realized that I was at 100 rides since I started tracking my cross-Canada virtual trip. As you can see in the image, as of earlier this week I had tracked 100 rides for 1535 km. My average ride is over 15 km and I am averaging 8.83 km per day overall. At about 11,000 km if I cover a virtual route to every provincial or territorial capital, I am about 15% done. At the current pace, my entire trip should take me almost exactly two full years.
There were two new beers this week, both from Alley Kat. First up, coming is as check-in #741 was a tribute to Alley Kat founder, Neil Herbst. Neil's Smoked Porter had nice malts and a rich color. There was a bit of smoke without the smoke being overpowering. Slightly more foam would have improved it, IMO. All in all nicely done and a great tribute to the Alley Kat founder and legend. (3.5 / 5)
Second up was the Sabro Dragon, another solid beer in their Dragon Double IPA series. The hop combination had a slightly metallic note, but the aroma and foam were good. The copper color was beautiful. This probably had more obvious hops taste than any recent Dragon. (3.25 / 5)
I thought it was appropriate that I also earned the Untappd "One Billionth Check-in" badge drinking a beer from my favorite brewery.
The new words below are all from my reading of "The Splendid and the Vile", the book that I finished and wrote about last week.
Greetings once again from 53.5° north latitude. The week that was was a week indeed. Since there was not really a post last week, there is a fair bit to cover this week, at least on the new beers front.
There were a couple interesting items to note before we get to the beer. The first was the result of a conversation with a friend about epidemiology studies spawning from a discussion about PubMed. My friend noted a study from 1984 published in the Journal of Trauma about emergency rooms statistics on injuries caused by falling coconuts. First of all, coconuts falling on heads is apparently a thing and a potentially fatal thing at that. Second, it is interesting to see how the process from a physician with an idea evolves into a research study and eventually into a journaled article. This is possible in 2021 with coding standards such as ICD-10 or ICD-9, but I have no idea how it was done in 1984. I imagine it was much more manual and therefore, at least to me, more impressive.
But the most interesting point of this is how the story changes, morphs, and gets exaggerated. From one article with references to two fatalities, the legend of the falling coconuts grew to where coconuts kill 150 per year and to having coconut trees removed from some Australian beaches. The related Wikipedia article has some interesting information.
The second item is somewhat related. The reason my friend and I were discussing PubMed was that we were discussing whether it was true naporxen was in fact less harmful that ibuprofen, which then led to investigation into NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In our house, we have both Aleve (naproxen) and Advil (ibuprofen) and happened to open a new bottle of Advil this last week. Based on the discussion and research, I was curious to see the list of non-medicinal ingredients in Advil. What I read surprised me.
As per the sheet that comes with Advil, the "important" non-medicinal ingredients (not sure if there are non-important as well) are:
So there you have it. Coconuts are more dangerous than titanium dioxide.
I have read quite a bit in the last two weeks, but have only finished one book. Book #6 for 2021 was "The Reader" by Traci Chee. This book signified the end of an era because it was a book that I started reading together with my older daughter but that we did not finish together as she no longer wants to read together. So there is that. The story was quite good though so I wanted to finish it. As one might expect from a book geared to a teen audience, the protagonists were themselves teenagers and were of course orphaned. However the story was not so filled with YA tropes to be annoying. The adults were nuanced and not completely evil. The kids were scared but also independent and powerful. The part that surprised me was how dark the story was. Not a lot of good things happen and the world in the story is quite harsh.
All in all, this was a good story and worth reading. It is the first book in a series and I am certain I will get to the others in the future.
In the past three weeks, I have completed the first two segments of the current Leg from Valemount to Edmonton. At this point, I have cycled 1390 km since I started logging my trips on my virtual cross-Canada tour. The updated progress image is given below. I am not going to post any fun facts about Jasper or Hinton since they are so familiar to me. I will probably start doing that again once I get past Edmonton.
No new music this week. The music playlist that I am going to share is entitled "Dad's last playlist" and came from him a couple years ago. Like any good playlist, every song has a story. As I explained to a friend earlier this week, when Dad listened to music, he *listened*. Plus he was a drummer when he was younger so if got into a song, he would grab pens or chopsticks or wooden spoons and beat the piss out of an imaginary set of skins to a song like "Devil with a Blue Dress" (song #6 on the playlist). Enjoy the music, and grab your own wooden spoons.
A lot of new beers were consumed in the last fortnight. As you will see in the notes below, I have come to the likely unpopular opinion that Blind Enthusiasm produces only mediocre beer.
Beer #728 was a local beer, the Resolutions 2021 from Bent Stick. This was a really good example of a barleywine. Nice taste without an alcohol burn. Well done. (3.75 / 5)
The next four are from Blind Enthusiasm, a local brewery that gets a lot of love. They have some decent beers, but I have never thought they were worthy of their Alberta brewery of the year award in 2018. Having interesting concepts is important, but so is consistency and quality control.
Beer #729 was their Kook Birds gin barrel-aged ale. This would have been great if it wasn't so overly carbonated (look at those bubbles and foam!). It was super tasty from the gin and really juicy without pithy citrus but I think they need to work on their quality control. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #730 was the Union Bhouys Euro Pale Lager. The description mentions lots of fruit and some malt. I did not get that much fruit from it but I did like the malt. I did pick up a lot of spice though once again, and it was off-putting. Might just be a personal preference coming through. (3.0 / 5)
Next up from Blind Enthusiasm and Beer #731 was their OKT which they call on the label as fruit-forward copper ale. I really liked the taste and color of this one. Good hops without being overly bitter. (3.5 / 5)
The final Blind Enthusiasm for this week and Beer #732 was the Fabhelles Helles Lager. Again, there is something in this beer that I don't like. I don't know if there is a consistent yeast or process step with Blind Enthusiasm that is off-putting to me. It isn't peppery but there is an off taste. Nice maltiness though. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #733 was the last local beer of the fortnight. The 2017 version of the Alley Kat's Olde Deuteronomy was another good barleywine. Another Olde Deuteronomy that makes me wish Alley Kat still produced these. High ABV but not alcohol burn. Great malts and aroma. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #734 was the Żywiec Lager out of Poland. One of the comments for it on Untappd says "Is there a word for "more generic than generic?" and that is pretty accurate. Nothing really stands out but nothing is really wrong with this either. Decent taste, light malt. (3.25 / 5)
Last up for the fortnight and coming in as Beer #735 was the Samuel Smith Welcome Back 2021 ale. This was a nice winter ale with some good background spices and really solid malts that one would expect from a good UK ale. Nice stuff. (3.5 / 5)
I am collecting quite a list of new words on my Kobo that I will add in when I finish my current book. For now, there is just this one word.
[ham·mam | \ hə-ˈmäm \]
Greetings from where the north latitude and the temperature are not that much different!
The week that was was definitely cold. There was no way I was going outside for a ride, so any and all cycling was confined to the stationary bike in the basement. In addition to saddle time, I did sample a few new beers, finished a book on the third try, and dug into some music. Before we get to the regular items, there are two items of note this week that I want to spend some time on.
The first is related to a question I posed to several people recently: which is more important, public health at the population level, or rights and freedoms at the individual level? In Canada, that can be phrased as a question between public health versus the Charter of Right and Freedoms.
I asked this exact question to several people in the last week, phrased specifically to pit the Charter against public health. The question elicited a strong response in every case. A few people were staunchly opposed to the argument that personal rights had any role in a pandemic. Others were tormented by the question and were unwilling to answer.
One friend found this blog entry for the Centre for Constitutional Studies at the University of Alberta law school. "The One vs the Many: When Public Health Conflicts with Individual Rights" highlights how hard it is to balance between the good of the many and the rights of the individual. One note from the blog that I was unaware of was how Canada was less respectful of individual rights during the 2003 SARS outbreak than either Hong Kong or Shanghai. The blog entry ends with a question that is still not answered as we close in on one full year of quarantine measures: How can the law both help protect the life of the population, and at the same time protect the individual against the powers the state takes upon itself to engage that task? How, indeed.
The second item of note is a TED Talk that I watched titled "Sleep is your superpower". Matt Walker is a sleep scientist and he made some great arguments for getting more sleep, and for getting it more regularly. The concept is not new, but there were some interesting scientific tidbits that I had not understood. Cue the opening sentence about testicles, for example. Or how the World Health Organization categorizes night shift work as a "possible carcinogen" due to the correlation between lack of regular sleep and cancer. It was a great way to spend twenty minutes, but please do not watch it late at night!
One week, one book finished. But that is not really fair. Book #5 for 2021 was "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency" by Alexander McCall Smith. This was a book that I desperately wanted to read, but I had two failed starts with it and was concerned that I would not make it through once again. The first attempt was several years ago and it was the audiobook format. I had significant trouble with the slow and overly deliberate pacing of the narration. (I think that was in the days before we had the option to listen at 1.25 times normal speed.) With a slow delivery and painstaking emphasis on the pronunciation of the protagonist's name (Mmm-mmAH RrrrrammmottssssWEY), I could not finish it.
The second attempt was on summer vacation in 2019. The rental home we stayed at had it in the shelves and I picked it up and read the first third. I did not finish it though, so I was concerned that it would never get read. I need not have been worried though as I picked it up and finished it in a few hours this week. It was entirely enjoyable and definitely worth the read. Mma Rowatswe's persistence and insight into people was nearly as great to read as was her view on how to live a fulfilling life. I am not sure if I will read the other books in the series, but I am glad I read this one. Finally.
As I mentioned in the intro, the frigid weather limited the cycling time to the stationary bike in the basement. I logged the equivalent of 62 km this week, which is definitely the upper limit for me on a stationary bike. But even though inside rides are suboptimal, it was better than being completely sedentary for the whole week.
I was able to make it through to Blue River, British Columbia on my virtual cross-Canada cycling tour. There is not much to say about Blue River. The Wikipedia entry suggests a population of 157, and the biggest highlight seems to be that the Lodgepole pine is the most common tree in the area. Onward to Valemount (with a U!)! Only 66 km to get there, which I should be able to do, even if I am stuck in the basement all week.
Two new albums in this week's Music Finds playlist. One was fantastic, and the other was not up my alley.
First up was the fantastic album. A couple weeks ago I mentioned The New Mastersounds and their album "Shake It". Back then I said that album was okay but that I heard "Tantalus" from their "Renewable Energy" album and that it was great. The whole album was really good, with "Green was Beautiful" and "Groovin' on The Groomers" as the other standouts.
The other album was "Delusion Rain" from the prog rock band Mystery. Yeah. I just am not into that type of music. Lots of high pitched male vocals, loud guitar and bass-heavy drums. Plus the songs are SOOOO long. "The Willow Tree" clocked in at 19'29", for crying out loud! To be fair, I did find myself getting into the beat on "The Last Glass of Wine" but six tracks taking over an hour is hard to get through, for me at least.
I was able to try three new beers this week, bringing my total number of check-ins on Untappd to 722.
Beer #720 was the Imperial Stout with Coffee from Blindman. I have extolled the virtues of this Lacombe-based brewery many times, and this was another solid offering. It had good flavor and aroma. Not as much coffee flavor as I expected though, but it was smooth and tasty. At 11% ABV, the 250 mL can size was a good idea. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #721 was another Alberta beer. Blind Enthusiasm did a sour based on plums aged in oak casks. The result was a very colorful and nicely tart beer that was easy to drink for a sour, but I wish it would have had more fruit flavor. It was good, but I was hoping for something more pronounced. (3.25 / 5)
Last up was a bit of a nostalgia trip for Beer #722, and the third Alberta beer of the week. We spent time at the Jasper Gates resort this past summer, which is a few steps from the Folding Mountain brewery. So in remembrance of that good time spent with some friends, I picked up their Founding MTN Lager and dropped off a few cans at our friends' house before a long Zoom call with them. This was a good lager, with a nice maltiness and a bit of spice as well. It was definitely good, but the memories and time on the call friends certainly did not hurt the rating. (3.5 / 5)
There was only one new word this week. I guess Mma Ramotswe's life lessons did not extend also into vocabulary.
Greetings from a cold, icy, and slightly snowy 53.5° north latitude. It was cold enough that I did not feel like going outside this week, and other than taking the garbage out on Wednesday and the recycling on Thursday, I stayed inside from Sunday to Saturday.
It was a pretty quiet week, with the focus on reading, music, and watching a few YouTube channels. There was one new beer and a new coffee, one book finished, and a handful of new words. Like I said, pretty quiet.
Book #4 for 2021 was "L is for Lawless", the twelfth book in the Kinsey Millhone series and the second book in 2021 that I have read from that series. L was a good book with a different feel and pacing from the first eleven in the series. This is likely due to the fact that Kinsey spent most of the story outside of California, and I cannot remember her spending much time outside of about ten miles from her home in the first ten books. She did venture to San Francisco in K so maybe author Sue Grafton was feeling trapped by keeping her protagonist confined to a small town. I also note that Grafton lived in Louisville, which is a location in the last part of L, so maybe there was a desire to write about her home town.
I am now essentially half-way through the series. These are easy books to read and I imagine that I will finish them all, but I doubt I will read them so soon in succession as I did K and L. Two Kinsey books in one month was a bit much, even if they are enjoyable reads.
Lots of music this week, with four artists and five albums in the Music Finds playlist.
First up was the Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk album I mentioned last week. Honestly, I was expecting more from this duo. The album starts out super strong with "Evidence" and Blakey killing it on the drums and Bill Hardman doing likewise on the trumpet. The rest of the album was good, don't get me wrong, but I was hoping for so much more.
Next were two albums by Nick Cave. The first one was his "Live from KCRW" album, which did not really resonate. The second, "The Boatman's Call" was much better. I thought the first half was superb, but I lost interest in the second half. There was too much melodrama and ennui to sustain me for nearly an hour.
The third artist was Robohands, a project of London musician Andy Baxter, and the album "Shapes". The whole album was good and "Leaves" and "Ikigai" were outstanding. I am definitely going to queue up more from Robohands in the future.
Last up was a Finnish psychedelic metal band called Jess and Ancient Ones. I gave their 2015 album "Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes" a couple listens in an attempt to force myself out of my comfort zone. I surprised myself by quite liking the album, especially "The Equinox Death Trip" and "Crossroad Lightning". The final song on the album, "Goodbye to Virgin Grounds Forever" is 22'35" long and would be a great song to listen to at the end of the evening at the Edmonton Folk Fest. Their Wikipedia entry lists the lead singer as Jess, no last name. Their vocals were very reminiscent of Grace Slick and early era Jefferson Airplane.
And finally, Phil Collins turned 70 this week and Tidal had focus on his music. I was, am, a big fan of his music so listening to some of his music with Genesis or his solo material was a great reminder of what a talented musician he is. Check out this article from Tidal and the link to a Phil-Collins-as-Drummer playlist.
Just one new beer this week, and it was unfortunately a disappointment. Beer #719 was the Radio the Mothership Imperial Double IPA from Collective Arts. This is highly bitter beer with an IBU rating of 100, and with a high ABV of 8.5%. I am a big fan of Collective Arts, and I think they are one of the best brewers in Canada. My average rating for the 16 check-ins I have for Collective Arts in my Untappd profile is 3.53, which is a fair bit higher than my overall average of 3.36. Like I said in the opening sentence though, this one was a disappointment.
I got a lot of peppery pineapple in the taste and it was quite carbonated, much more so than I would have expected in an Imperial. It did have a nice haziness and color, but the aroma was off somehow. I did have two cans of this and my experience was similar for both so unless it was old outdated stock, I recommend a pass on this beer. (3.0 /5)
I got a treat this week on the coffee front as I was able to open a new bag of beans. The Espresso Sicilica from Cherry Hill Coffee out of Kelowna. This coffee gives a nice dark espresso with a thick crema and a really nice aroma. The taste is a bit fruity and is definitely more dense than recent beans I have purchased. I bought one bag of this on my own and got another for Christmas, so I suspect I will be drinking this coffee for a couple months.
I have to admit that I am still confused about how much coffee I should be using in my espresso machine. The minimum recommended amount seems to be 17 grams of coffee, but I can barely hit 15 g in my portafilter. Cherry Hill recommends 21 g on their site. I did have an issue with my manual grinder and I have wondered for the past few weeks if my grind was too coarse which was therefore not allowing me to pack enough into the portafilter.
I had to get a replacement shipped out to me last week, and I am happy to say that the grind is significantly better with the replacement. The pictures below tell a story.
There are two grinds in the left image. The coffee in the glass jar was ground with my original Eparé Manual Coffee Grinder (epare.com)Manual Coffee Grinder, and the grounds on the counter beside it are store-ground espresso. You can see how much finer the grind is with the store-ground. After asking a few questions with the customer service team at Eparé, they sent me out a replacement grinder. The image on the right is what the new grinder does, which is quite an improvement. I am happy with the grinder, but I am even happier with the customer service.
There are a decent number of words this week. Some are from recent readings, and the rest are the remainder of the words I flagged while reading War and Peace.
[ uh-lee-juhnt ]
putti (plural noun)
[ex·suf·fla·tion | \ ˌeksəˈflāshən \]
Greetings from 53.5° north after a relatively boring week, at least in comparison to the previous one. This week was filled with reading, riding, and work, with the added milestone of being caught up on The Mandalorian. I have to hand it to Disney. Mando was such a well-done series with a great mix of comedy and tension. Plus the return of Boba Fett, Bib Fortuna, and Luke Skywalker did not hurt of course.
I am actually interesting in watching the upcoming Star Wars content coming out on Disney+, and this coming from a lifelong fan who had seriously soured after "Solo" and "The Rise of Skywalker".
Enough geeking out. Time to get on with the rest of the update for this week.
Book #2 for 2021 was "Cibola Burn", the fourth book in the Expanse series by James S. A. Corey. There are a lot of reasons why I like the Expanse series. Certainly the action is good and the implications of humanity spreading out throughout the solar system and beyond is always fodder for interesting thoughts and speculations. However the best reason to read the series is that the good guys always win. Someway, somehow, they get things to work, but not with a macho, lone wolf bullshit trope, and not with some deus ex machina intervention. They do it with love and an undying loyalty for each other. They are highly principled people, even Amos who could be considered a killer, and the clarity their principles give them drive the forward to do the right thing and ultimately to be successful. Definitely recommend the series if you are interested in science fiction, space exploration, and humanity.
It was a good week in the saddle. As I mentioned before, the distance I am traveling is not great but I am happy with what I am doing for the distance I am riding. I rode for just over 69 km this week but got some killer hills in and some good top end speed, which feels really good on my heavy winter bike with studded tires.
From a milestone point of view on my cross-Canada virtual tour, I made it to Barriere, British Columbia. As I virtually ride north on Highway 5, Barriere is the first settlement of note north of Kamloops. According to Wikipedia, Barriere only became an incorporated settlement in 2007, even though it has been home to the Simpcw people for thousands of years. The other interesting note I could find is that Barriere is at the same latitude as Stonehenge, so they have erected a scaled-down replica in tribute.
Here is the updated progress chart. I should be able to easily make it to Clearwater next week.
I wrote about 250 words for all of the great music that I found this week, but then Weebly went and screwed up on me and the whole section was lost. Instead of trying to redo it all, I will give a quick summary.
I had four new beers this week and either they were all not very good, or I am just in a phase where I am not liking beer. These beers seemed average at best and two of them were definitely below average.
Beer #713 was the Fat Sherpa porter from Establishment Brewing in Calgary. It came highly recommended and my community on Untappd really liked it. I found it a bit smoky but did not really enjoy it. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #714 was Father John's Winter Ale from Howe Sound. This was very aromatic but bland tasting. The winter spices did not really come through for me. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #715 was another from Howe Sound. The Megadestroyer Imperial Licorice Stout got points for originality but again I was not overly impressed. The initial shock from the licorice taste did pass quickly but there are many other Imperial Stouts that I would recommend before this one. (3.25 / 5)
I have now had three beers from Howe Sound and they are averaging 3.06. I think that is enough of a sample to give them a pass next time I come across them.
Last up for Beer #716 was the Sour Citra from Les Trois Mousquetaires out of Quebec.I picked this up thinking it was a Sour Cherry beer so it was a bit disappointing. Nice pithy taste, but the sour was just there and not really part of the beer. To be fair, I might have been a bit biased since I was looking forward to a sour cherry beer. (3.0 / 5)
The first word in the list of new words for this week is right from the title of the book I finished. A few others come from that book and others come from my catch up work with 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.
Happy 2021 from 53.5° north!
I took last week off from writing as I needed time to rest, recharge, and reflect. It seems everyone else had the same thought, especially in regards to reflecting. A lot of content crossed my feeds about how crappy 2020 was, how glad we can be that it is finally over, and that better things are ahead.
I have multiple problems with those statements and the underlying attitude that creates statements like that. First of all, it is not guaranteed that 2021 will be any better and I am concerned that people are setting themselves up for a great disappointment. Second, not everything was bad in 2020 and it is important to recognize the good instead of simply bemoaning the bad.
The following text was something I sent to a person I got to know somewhat in 2020, somehow who I have followed online for a long time. The pandemic and the disruption to our lives was terrible, not mentioning the impact to human life across the world. However, I was able to take some solid positives out of the past year, and I hope this helps you reflect on your year more positively as well.
2020 was the year that I was able to connect with people from London to Toronto to Perth to Boston to Los Angeles to San Francisco to Seattle to Vancouver to Hawaii. The very fact that I needed to be in my home office allowed me to (forced me to?) reach out and connect. It was not the same people every day. It was new people and new experiences. Granted it was not traveling to meet face to face, but the only way to meet with someone seven time zones away one day and another person four time zones the other way the next was to do this virtually. 2020 gave me that opportunity and for that I am grateful.
As 2020 came to a close, news outlets, consulting groups, social media networks, independent journalists and pretty much every other organization came out with a summary of 2020, and of course the focus of many of these summaries was COVID. Two that I really enjoyed were from Boston Consulting Group and McKinsey. I featured the McKinsey charts on changing leadership behaviors from McKinsey a few weeks back. The one chart that really staggered me was the one about how many children are now learning from home. See the image below.
In other news, the cybersecurity industry was stunned by the extent of the SolarWinds breach. From a day-job point of view, I have read a lot about this and have a good understanding of what this means. I also have some information that is probably circulating in the CISO circles globally but is not public knowledge. In addition, I have a few subscription services that I could reference, but those are behind paywalls. As a result, I will stick to information in the public domain.
One consistently good source of analysis regardless of topic is Lawfare. In this post, the timeline of the attack is discussed. It is vital to understand that this is not something that was done, discovered, and remediated in a few weeks or months. This was an attack that was planned and executed years ago, and was executed with serious skill.
Thus, SolarWinds can be understood as the result of the operational success achieved three and a half years ago. --Dr. Richard J. Harknett, Lawfare
Even if we could wave our magic wands and remove the affected versions of the SolarWinds software, the scope and scale of the access this breach provided means we will be working to remediate for years. It is not hyperbole to say that we might never know the impact and cost associated with this breach. I am sure I will have more to say about this in the future.
I had a goal in 2020 to read 52 books, or one a week. I hit a terrible reading drought in September but still ended up with 48. I had to finish four of those books in the last ten days of the year, but a book read is a book read regardless of when it is read.
Book #45 for 2020 was "The Great Hunt" by Robert Jordan, the second book in the Wheel of Time series. I finished the first book in the series back in September and was really glad I read the second book. I have had issues with the length of the series and a few of the gender stereotypes but I think this read of The Great Hunt helped clarify what Jordan was trying to do with his characters. Yes, the brooding-emotionally-distant-male and feisty-but-emotional-female tropes do exist, but the characters do have depth beyond the stereotype. I am glad I re-read this and am looking forward to the third book in the series.
Book #46 was the sixth and final book in the FunJungle series, "Tyrannosaurus Wrecks". My younger daughter and I read all six books in the series in 2020, and I said in late November I was not sure that I needed to finish the series. However, the final book in the series popped up as a loan from the library and so we decided to plow through it. In the end, it was an enjoyable book, and a great series, and I am glad we read it together. But six YA books in one series in a year was a bit much.
Book #47 was the Tolstoy classic, "War and Peace". I started reading this on January 1, 2020, and finished it on December 31, 2020. I did not read a chapter a day as I suggested a year ago, but I did follow along with the Reddit book group for a large portion of the year. This was a book that made me think a lot, and I think that reflection was worth the 1224 pages and 366 days of reading. There is probably an entire long form post about War and Peace, but I am not sure I could say anything that has not already been said. Let's leave it at the fact that I am glad I read it.
Book #48 and the final book for 2020 was "Wyrd Sisters", the sixth Discworld book from Terry Pratchett. I really wanted another Rincewind book as I find him a wonderful if hapless protaganist, but the Witches were really interesting characters - funny, intelligent, completely stupid, all at the same time. I am looking forward to reading at least a couple more in this series in 2021.
And finally, we need to get into the books for 2021. Book #1 for 2021 was "K for Killer" the eleventh book in the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton. This was a really enjoyable story with a few gasp-worthy moments and a decent enough story to keep me up late two nights in a row. The elapsed time in the book was less than a week, so the story moved along quite quickly, and that kept me reading. It was not the tumultuous ending that some of the other Millhone / Grafton novels have had, but in a way that made this one more satisfying.
With that book started and finished in the first three days of the year, I am on pace to read 121 books in 2021. I probably will not get quite that many, but you never know what the year will bring.
I felt pretty good about my cycling in the last two weeks, even though I only rode for 112 km. The fact that I am getting out is part of it, but my rides are getting more challenging. It feels good to push myself up a hill, especially on a heavy, old bike with studded tires in the middle of winter.
I finished the segment to Merritt and am twenty per cent of the way to Kamloops. According to Wikipedia, Merritt has a population of about 7,000 people, with an economy focused on ranching, farming, forestry, transportation, and tourism. Being only 87 km to Kamloops and 270 km from Vancouver, it is probably close enough to other centers to have what it needs and far enough away to remain a small town and close community, but honestly on the drive to the coast, it has never been more than a pit stop for me.
Looking at this entry, it might seems like lots of new beers in the last two weeks. However, five beers in fourteen days is a new beer every 2.8 days which is only a bit faster than my pace since I started logging on Untappd. (For the record, my pace is one new beer every 2. 98 days) The five beers this fortnight were a dark ale, a strong ale, a scotch ale, a sour, and an IPA. Definitely winter beers in that selection.
Beer #706 was the Squid Ink Cascadian Dark Ale from the Olds College Brewery. Not bad, a bit bland but I think that was by design - a dark ale without the big booziness or powerful flavors of a winter stout. Decent enough to drink the four pack, and happy to support our local great agricultural college and brewmaster program. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #707 was the Hot Summer Nights IPA from SYC Brewing in Edmonton. This was a really good beer. There was a lot of juiciness, and the hops were strong but not overpowering. Easy to drink fast but watch out for the relatively high ABV for an IPA. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #708 was another 2020 Alberta Beer Week Unity brew. This one was led by Railyard Brewing out of Calgary. A decent beer with a lot of flavor. Seemed a bit flat but might have just been my can. I will look out for other beers from Railyard after this one. (3.25 / 5)
The fourth beer in the last fortnight was another Alberta brew. Beer #709 was the Haskap Aromatica Sour from Odd Company Brewing in Edmonton. I really wanted to like this one more than I did. Great color and aroma. The flavor seemed a bit off though, but that might have been because it was not cold enough. (3.0 / 5)
The last beer in the fortnight was from British Columbia. Beer #710 was the Hopraiser West Coast IPA from Howe Sound. Howe Sound is a brewery, a brewpub, and an inn in Squamish. Sounds like my kind of place. Back to the beer, the Hopraiser was not bad. It had a fair bit of hops and a fragrant aroma. Got a bit of malt in the taste but other than that, it was a bit bland. (3.25 / 5)
Lots of new words this week, partly due to all of the reading and partly due to the fact that I am catching up on all of the flagged words from War and Peace over the year.