I had a tidy little update completed last weekend but forgot to post it. That means this update is for the past two weeks.
Before getting into the regular sections, the big news from last week's unposted entry was the federal election. In some ways, one might think it was no news at all, since there was little change in the seat tally: the Liberals gained two seats but still have a minority; the NDP and Bloc each gained a seat; the Conservatives lost two seats but still hold sway in Western Canada.
However, it might not be that simple for a few reasons. First, there were ridings that the Conservatives would have won if the People's Party had not split the conservative votes. That would not have won them enough seats to win a minority, but it would have shifted the balance. Second, all parties said they do not want another election so no one will want to be seen as the leader or party that forced Canadians into another expensive, unwanted election. This might mean that Trudeau and the Liberals do not need a majority to act like a majority government.
Here is the non-Mercator map of how the seats distributed after the mail-in ballots were counted.
There were interesting developments locally as well. Two more ridings fell from the Conservatives in Edmonton. Randy Boissonnault was the beneficiary of right-of-center vote splitting in Edmonton Central, and first-time candidate Blake Desjarlais won big in Edmonton Griesbach to become Alberta's only Indigenous MP. Boissonnault is sure to get a cabinet post out of his win, and Desjarlais and NDP colleague Heather McPherson from Edmonton Strathcona will work to build momentum for their party in this term.
Beyond the election, I was able to finish two more books. But before I get to that, have you ever had multiple books on hold at the library, all with different estimated wait times, only to have them ALL come in at the same time? Once again, I ended up this past week with well over 1500 pages of holds with no possible way to finish them all before they are due. Alas, so many books, so little time.
Book #35 for 2021 was "Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers" by Andy Greenburg. This is a journalistic exposé of what the Russian state-sponsored hackers dubbed Sandworm by American cyber researchers have done from Estonia to Ukraine to America. It is utterly terrifying and should be required reading for any policy-maker, corporate leader, or Internet user. In other words, everyone.
Changing gears quite a bit, the next book went back to fiction and a series I quite enjoy. Book #36 for 2021 was "Guards! Guards!", the eighth book in the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. The previous seven books were all enjoyable, but this was my favorite by far. Pratchett's humor and word play was in full form for the whole novel, and the story produced many real-world laugh-out-loud moments. The Discworld novels can be read in any order so if you have only one Discworld novel in your future, choose this one.
Between mechanical failures and personal injury, I just cannot seem to keep any momentum on my virtual cross-Canada tour. However, even with that, I did manage to complete the Falcon Lake to Kenora segment of the Winnipeg to Thunder Bay leg, and with that, have officially passed into the province of Ontario.
Kenora is not necessarily a town that would be a well-known city seeing it has a population of only about 15,000. However, someone of my age in Canada will surely remember the 1985 PCB spill on the Trans-Canada Highway near Kenora. A bit of ignominy that I am sure Kenora does not deserve, so I was happy to learn some fun facts about the city from the Wikipedia page. First of all, it was first call Rat Portage. Second, it (Rat Portage) is mentioned in Algernon Blackwood's 1910 story "The Wendigo", which is a story that has been on my to-read list for a while. Third, in the vein of so many Canadian towns and cities, it has an oversize sculpture, theirs being a forty-foot version of a muskellunge called "Husky the Muskie". And finally, the Kenora Airport has the IATA code of YQK.
Next stop, Dryden.
Five new beers in the past fortnight, bringing my lifetime total check-ins to 815, four of which were from Edmonton. There is a lot going on in Edmonton's breweries, and some of it is good.
Beer #811 was from Alley Kat's Back Alley Brews limited run series. There have been some really good Back Alley Brews, but unfortunately, the "At's Wits End" witbier was not one of them. It had a light banana taste. Maybe? Couldn't quite make it out due to the unappealing funk that pervaded the beer. (2.5 / 5)
Beer #812 was the "Dissent within the Caucus" sour from Trial & Ale. Trial & Ale is the brewery I mentioned in July that exclusively uses wild yeasts. The yeast in Dissent is called Pediococcus (see what they did there?) which is developed through very long fermentation cycles in oak barrels. The sourness at first drink was super intense, but it was easy to adjust to and enjoy. This process also lends to the dryness of the drink which helped with the desire to keep sampling from the glass. Another interesting beer from Trial & Ale, and another interesting lesson in wild fermentation. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #813 was another learning experience about yeasts. The Odd Company "Mandarina Sour" was made with kveik, which I learned is a family of ancient Norwegian farmer's yeast that is useful for brewing fast-maturing and tropical fruit-accented beers. This particular beer was solid, with nice juicy flavors but was otherwise unremarkable. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #814 was the last of the Edmonton beers, and it was back to Alley Kat for this one. This one was their "Ekuanot Dragon", the latest in their long-running series of Double IPAs. A 7.5% ABV highly aromatic and piney beer, tagged by the brewer as "best enjoyed in summer heat" seems a bit off to me. It makes me wonder if Alley Kat marketed it that way since they released it in June just prior to summer. Regardless, this was decent but not as memorable as some others in the Dragon series. (3.25 / 5)
Last up was my second of the beers I picked up from Almanac out of San Francisco. LOUD was a winner (4.0 / 5), LOVE was quite good (3.75 / 5), and so I went into their "Sabrosa DIPA" with high expectations. Maybe I am just tired of juicy beers, but this one felt underwhelming as I drank it. I am dulled by the amount of pineapple flavors in beers this past year, so I could not get the promised coconut and cantaloupe. Still, it was a beautiful beer, and the aroma was more intoxicating that the drink, so that was something. (3.5 / 5)
Lots of new words this week, but then I realized that most of them were made up, purposeful misspellings by Terry Pratchett in his Discworld novel.
I have not done a real post on this site for three weeks, so there is a bit to catch up on, as I alluded to last week. I finished three books, finished a couple segments on my cross-Canada virtual tour, tried twelve (12!) beers, and compiled a minor list of new words. Let's jump in.
At this point in the year, I should have finished 36 books to be on pace for 52 in a year. I finished three in the last three weeks and will finish another in the next day or so. That will take me to 34 for the year and I have a couple short ones that should get me up to pace.
Book #31 for 2021 was "The Return of the Incredible Exploding Man" by Dave Hutchinson. As you might guess from the title, this is a science fiction book but set in America and not in space. The story follows a journalist given an opportunity to document a particle collider like the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, but much bigger. In the slow build-up, the journalist befriends a disgraced author, strikes up a strangely platonic relationship with a physicist, and writes essentially nothing for his book. And then the book gets very science-fiction-y with explosions and chaos. There are characters introduced that play less of a role than expected, and plot elements that are not satisfactorily closed off. The 25-words-or-less review is that this is a book that is really close to being great, but is still very enjoyable with its flaws.
Book #32 for 2021 was "Third Girl", which is a Hercule Poirot book by Agatha Christie. I recently decided that I want to read all Christie's novels and this one was available in the library. It is one of Christie's latter books, published in 1964 (or 1967, or 1968 depending on which source you look at). Regardless of the year, it is Poirot in the Swinging 60s trying to fit in a London filled with beatniks. His mind and his investigative acumen was still sharp for the novel, but it was interesting watching him struggle with a world that has moved past his mustachioed, Saville Row suit era. I was very confident I had this murdered figured out, and was very happy to find out that I was wrong, and that the solution was elegant and believable. It seems that a Late 60s Poirot still could fit into the world, which of course means that the Late 60s Christie was also still relevant and connected to her world.
Book #33 for 2021 was a re-read of "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince". I read this with my younger daughter, and it was only the second time I read it. I had no recollection of what happened in the book, and it was as shocking to me as it was to my daughter. It was nice to move past the middle of the Harry Potter series and all the annoying teenage angst plot lines. However, Harry is still an annoying protagonist. As my daughter said, the heroes in books are supposed to be characters you cheer for that do things that we could never do, but "Harry is just an idiot". I could not agree more but am still glad for the series and for what they have done to stimulate a love for reading with people everywhere.
I am getting back in the saddle, but I still have not regained the momentum I had before I broke my bike. Even so, I am past Winnipeg and making my way to the Ontario border. Here is an updated progress chart.
The two completed legs were Portage La Prairie and Winnipeg, which closed off Leg #8 from Regina to Winnipeg. The one time I drove to Winnipeg in 1991, I drove the route through Portage La Prairie, but I cannot remember anything about it. That is likely because we drove through the night, and it was probably 06:00 when we passed through. According to Wikipedia, it is exactly half way between the Saskatchewan and Ontario borders, and it was once proposed as an independent Metis state called the Republic of Manitobah. Continuing my fascination with airports, Portage La Prairie is serviced by the Southport Airport, IATA code YPG, former home of Canadian Forces Base Portage La Prairie.
Winnipeg is a provincial capital and home to three-quarters of a million people. A collection of "fun facts" about Winnipeg would take a lot of effort, so I will just post a link to the Wikipedia page. I will comment that I spent January to April of 1996 in Winnipeg, and I absolutely loved the city. That might have had something to do with the fact that I was single and was living on a per diem, and that my condo in Winnipeg was nicer than my apartment in Edmonton. But still, I have many fond memories of my time in Winnipeg.
The next leg is the biggest yet. There are 723 km between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay, and this is new territory for me. I have lived in Winnipeg, but never travelled by vehicle east past the city. Toronto, North Bay, Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec are all places I have visited in real life, but other than that, everything for the rest of the virtual tour is new to me. Looking forward to the fun facts along the way. Next up, Falcon Lake, Manitoba!
As I said in the intro, I have tried twelve new beers in the past three weeks. This pushes me well past the 800 unique beers mark.
Beer #798 was the Phillips Benefit Brew Forest Citrus Lager. This was very decent. Nicely carbonated with a hint of juice. A Lager with some actual flavor which is great for a lager, and a pleasant surprise from a brewery that I am not keen on. (3.5 / 5)
Remember when Big Rock was a great brewery? It is a faint and distant memory, unfortunately. The downfall was slow and almost unnoticeable until they released their Purple Gas saskatoon berry beer. There has been nothing to look forward to from them since. Beer #799 was their Poolside Grapefruit Lager was no exception. It started out promising as it really smells nice, like a fresh grapefruit. However, the taste was bitter, and it was overly carbonated. Disappointing, once again. (3.0 / 5)
In early August, I mentioned that I tried the Alley Kat 1891 Special Blonde but that it was not available in Untappd. I checked again this week, and it now shows up. I figured it would be appropriate to have an Alley Kat beer show up as a milestone, so I will count that as Beer #800. As I said in early August, it is not that good. (2.5 / 5)
Beer #801 was from Collective Arts, a brewery that I sample from almost as much as I do Alley Kat. Seemed to be more like a hefeweizen / wheat beer than a blonde, but that might be due to the dry hops. It was tasty though, and quite easy to drink. (3.25 / 5)
The next beer comes from the Strathcona Beer Company, which excited me as I thought it was another Edmonton brewery. Alas, they are from Vancouver. Beer #802 was their Mosaic Pale Ale. I am a hops fan, but this was overly hoppy. Or maybe it was just that there were too many competing flavors. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #803 was my second from Tailgunner Brewing out of Calgary. While their Red Magil IPA was pretty good, I liked their Bobby Sox Strawberry Lime Sour more. This had an amazing aroma, and a nice foam. There was more lime flavor than strawberry, but it had a good taste overall. (3.5 /5)
Since there are so many beers this week, I am going to split up the reviews and provide the image for the first six beers here.
Next up was from the Almanac Beer Company out of San Francisco. The fact that Sherbrooke Liquor was carrying Almanac during my last visit was pointed out as a major plus, so I picked up a few singles. Beer #804 was their LOUD! Hazy IPA and it was quite good. Tons of citrus, great aroma, no bitterness. (4.0 / 5)
I have commented twice before on these regular updates that The Establishment Brewing Company out of Calgary has not lived up to its hype from fans. They are now three-for-three in the disappointing column. Beer #805 was their Brighten the Corners Extra Pale Ale, and it was too astringent to enjoy. (2.5 / 5)
Next up was a peach beer, which is something that does not sit well with me, likely due to the horrid peach beer from Stanley Park I had in 2015. [Since that was well before I created this blog, here is the report on the Stanley Park SunSetter Peach Wheat Ale - "The bottle says "natural peach flavors are infused" which I guess means artificial flavors. Tastes fake, smells tinny. Won't repeat.: (2.0 / 5)] However, Beer #806 was the Railyard Brewing Peach Sour, and it was really quite good. Lots of flavor with the sour contrasting nicely with the sweetness of the peach. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #807 was from Foxtail Beer, which seems to be out of Edmonton. I had their Next Chapter IPA which was flavorful and tasty but I could not really place anything particular as a standout marker. Still good, and I will definitely look for others from Foxtail. (3.25 / 5)
Phantom Beer out of Vancouver describes themselves as "Canada's only collaborative craft brewery, merging contract brewing, sales representation and its own proprietary brands into a one-stop, innovative solution for breweries and retailers in an increasingly competitive and difficult-to-navigate market." If I can parse out the various parts of that sentence, that seems like an interesting business model. What about their beer though? Their Mindfuzz IPA was Beer #808 and it was very good. Super flavor, grapefruit without pith, nicely hazy without sediment. Really well done. (4.0 / 5)
Last up was another from Driftwood in Victoria. For Beer #809, I had their Viewfield Brett Saison. A flavorful Brett is sometimes hard to get into with the characteristic funky flavors, and this was no exception. However, the flavors mellowed as I drank the beer. Very aromatic and crisp. (3.5 / 5)
Six new words covering the last three weeks.
Greetings from 53.5° north. It was a pretty quiet week, with all of my time in the saddle stuck in the basement on the stationary bike. Luckily though, I am blessed with great friends, and one lent me a bike. I will be outside on the trails once again starting Monday. Beyond that, there were two books completed, one new beer, and a couple words. Time to jump in.
My focus on reading over the summer is paying off, as I am now on pace to read my target of 52 books this year.
Book #29 for 2021 was "N is for Noose" by the late Sue Grafton. This is the fourteenth book in the Kinsey Millhone detective series, and unfortunately was not one that I really enjoyed. The ending was interesting and a bit suspenseful, but I felt like I wanted the book to end so I could move on to something else. The last few in the series were much better, so hopefully "O" gets back in form. To be fair, N was not horrible, and I will certainly look forward to continuing with the series, but maybe with a bit less enthusiasm that I had going into N.
Book #30 for 2021 was a book I read with my younger daughter. "The Incorrigibles of Ashton Place: The Mysterious Howling", by Maryanne Rose was a wonderful story about three children literally raised by wolves - or at least, that is what we are lead to believe - and then rescued and housed in the expansion Ashton Place estate. The story takes place post-Dickens, pre-Conan Doyle according to fourth-wall-breaking references in the book. It was quite enjoyable and provided a nice cliff-hanger segue into the second book of the series. I imagine we will read the next book in the series later this fall.
There was just one new beer this week, and it was not good. I remember when Troubled Monk started brewing and I was very excited. A good brewery in Central Alberta was previously unheard of, and their beers were good. Since then though, the best thing to come out of them is their Saskatoon pop. Case in point, their Daycation Lager. As it says on the can, low hops and low malt went into this beer. As a result, there is very little taste. I am not much of a lager fan, but even so this was disappointing. I really hope Troubled Monk can change their trajectory and produce something to be excited about once again. (2.0 / 5)
Even with the two books completed this week, and another likely to be finished shortly after this is published, there have not been a lot of new words to produce. One is definitely a repeat, as I remembered it from the Wheel of Time books as soon as I looked it up.
Greetings. The week that was was fairly mundane. As a result, there is not much to report, just a few beers and a bunch of words. My cycling distance has plummeted since the frame broke two weeks ago so nothing new to report there unfortunately. In addition, summer vacation is over, so it is back to work next week.
Four new beers this week, and a 50/50 split between them. My total is now 796 unique check-ins in my personal quest to drink one of every beer in the world.
The first two beers were from Grain Bin Brewing in Grande Prairie. We were in Grande Prairie for the first visit with grandparents since before COVID and they welcomed me with some local beers, which I thought was super nice of them. Grain Bin is an interesting brewery with a definite push toward variety in their beers.
The first one from Grain Bin, Beer #793, was on the positive side of the ledger. It was the Twigs and Berries Haskap Stout. This tasted like a forest in a beer, in a good way. It had a really nice flavor and aroma, with a good stout booziness and a rich foam. I had to look up what haskap is. It is a berry high in antioxidants that was introduced to Canada from Japan in the 1950s, with the first cultivation in Beaverlodge which is just west of Grande Prairie. A beer that is local, international, and unique all at once. (3.75 / 5)
The second one from Grain Bin, Beer #794, was on the negative side of the ledger. I am not really a seltzer fan and not a gin fan. As a result, I had trouble getting over those biases bias to enjoy this. (2.75 / 5)
Beer #795 was in fact a cider, specifically the Blue Tractor Modern Dry Cider from Woodward Cider in Kamloops. This was put together really well and was tasty. As the name suggests, this was quite dry. My sweet tooth extends to ciders however, and so it was the second entry this week to hit the negative side of the ledger. To be fair, it was close to being on the positive side and was a personal preference and not a failing of the cider that put it there. (3.0 / 5)
Last up and coming in as Beer #796 was another from Narrow Gauge out of Missouri. The first two came in at 4.0 and 3.75, and this one was even better than the first two. Their Emperor Fallen Flag is a take on their Double IPA King Fallen Flag. I suppose you would call this a Triple IPA as a result. I really like this one and it is my favorite of the three beers I have tried from Narrow Gauge. The multiple hops treatments gave this beer a ton of flavor and a real kick at 10% ABV but zero booze burn. Fantastic stuff. (4.25 / 5)
There are quite a few new words this week, but to be honest, most of them are from "Nemesis Games" that I reviewed a couple weeks ago.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude where it is still hot and getting drier. There was no update last week, so the usual sections are a bit meatier this week: two books, one segment, five beers, and a metric boatload of words.
First up, a quote from the mid-week pickup Brain Pickings email. For this week, Brain Pickings creator Maria Popova went back to 2015 for an article on the famed mycologist, Beatrix Potter. (Yes, she also wrote a book or two.)
Imagination is the precursor to policy, the precondition to action. Imagination, like wonder, allows us to value something. --Linda Lear
The quote is from Linda Lear, who wrote what Popova calls the best book on Beatrix Potter. The quote struck me as I had recently written about imagination in the Gaming section. Imagination is not just for gaming and writing, but also allows us to see into the future and gives us a view at a world we would like to live, which in turn illuminates the targets we need to strive for to bring the ideas in our imagination into reality.
I was able to finish one book and one book-that-was-actually-a-play this week.
Book #25 for 2021 was "Authority" by Jeff Vandermeer, the second book in the Southern Reach trilogy. I read "Annihilation" in 2018 and liked it enough to pick up the second book. This has a significantly different feel than Annihilation as it takes place completely outside the mysterious and deadly zone that was the focus of the first book. Authority is largely the story of an interim administrator of the Southern Reach organization brought in to determine what exactly is going on with the flagging and directionless organization. Throughout the book, the protagonist flounders and control (authority) eludes him, but it is unclear why. The story comes together nicely and sets up for an interesting end to the trilogy. If you are not a fan of psychological terror, this might not be the book for you. There were many scenes which could definitely unnerve the reader, including and one completely freaky spine-tingling scene.
Book #26 for 2021 was the play "R.U.R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)". This was originally written in 1920 and was translated to English in 1923. I was drawn to it as it is described as the work that introduced the word and concept of "robot" to English and science fiction. As with all good fiction, the technology is a stage prop, a reason to explore a facet of humanity. In this case, it is a story of human hubris and how the human race lost its purpose and was easily replaced by its creations. Highly recommended. Various versions exist, including on the Standard Ebooks site.
As an aside, I discovered Standard Ebooks this week while searching for a version of R.U.R. The ebooks they publish are much nicer to read than the average fare from Gutenberg, and in fact use the translations from Gutenberg and other sources. Check them out.
I was able to complete the Grenfell-Virden segment in the cross-Canada virtual tour since the last update. When I picked route for this leg, I thought I would have a stop in Virden to identify the transition into Manitoba. Little did I know that Virden had such an outsized impact for a town of just over 3000 people. According to Wikipedia, Virden is the birthplace of the co-founder of Boston Pizza, the co-founder of Reader's Digest, and a former Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. Nice work, Virden.
Here is the latest progress chart. Since I started tracking my rides for this virtual tour, I have rode 165 times in 305 days for a total of 3007 km.
Five new beers in fourteen days. I am now at 786 unique check-ins in my personal quest to drink one of every beer in the world. One standout, one decent offering, and three that will not make the drink-again list.
Beer #782 was The Tragically Hip Road Apples cider from Thornbury Village Cider House and Brewery in Thornhill, Ontario. I really wanted to love this cider, but it had a weird taste that I just could not get into. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #783 was the King Fallen Flag Imperial IPA from Narrow Gauge Brewing in Florissant, Missouri. This was quite a good beer with a deep flavor that was not overpowered by the high ABV. I have a couple other beers in the fridge from Narrow Gauge and I am looking forward to those as well. (4.0 / 5)
Beer #784 was the Valley of the Giants Belgian Strong from Polar Park here in Edmonton. The first taste was surprisingly good. It was crisp like a lager but definitely a strong ale taste. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #785 was the Bobbing Duck Wit from High River Brewing in High River. I was not a fan of this beer. The taste was overly peppery from the coriander, and I did not taste much else. (3.0 / 5)
Last up and coming in as Beer #786 was the Gold Past Life Czech Lager from The Establishment Brewing Company. For the only other beer I have had from Establishment, I commented that it "came highly recommended and well reviewed so I am surprised how little impact this had on me". Ditto on this one. Admittedly I am not a fan of lagers, but this did not have much to draw me in. (3.0 / 5)
A surfeit of words this week, mostly from "Rosewater: Insurrection" that I finished two weeks ago.
massacring (present participle)
ex post facto
[ˌeks pōst ˈfaktō]
Greetings from 53.5° where overnight on Saturday the ambient air temperature and the air quality index were both 10. A temperature of 10°C overnight in July is not great but it is not the end of the world. An air quality index of 10 however is as close the End Times as I want to experience, thank you very much.
The portion of the week where I was not encamped indoors to avoid the smoke was spent preparing for the new campaign I start running tomorrow, cycling, drinking a few beer, and reading a few books. In other words, status quo.
I finished two books this week, or at least I would like to take credit for two books. I finished one for sure, if the definition of book is something with an ISBN or ISSN.
Book #23 for 2021 was "The Rosewater Insurrection" by Tade Thompson. This is the second book in the Wormwood series, and I read and commented on the first book two years ago. In summary, an alien lifeform has inhabited a large area in Nigeria and the relationship with the humans and other fauna and flora is complicated. In some ways, the - let's call it terran - flora and fauna benefit greatly from the alien presence. However, there are reasons to be cautious of course, and Insurrection deals with the debate of how to live with, or exterminate, a clearly superior and uninvited guest. Thompson has created a super series with this trilogy, one that is bursting with ideas. I highly recommend picking up the first book in the series, simply titled "Rosewater" and then diving into Insurrection as well. I will try to have less time between the second and third books in the series than I did after reading the first.
The second book is called a "pamphlet" by the author, which is, I think, a deliberate nod towards the pamphlets used to spread liberal, socialist, and communist ideology. Since it was not published and cataloged formally, I was unsure if I should count it as a "book' in my reading for the year. Given the thought-provoking ideas and the list of words I had to look up, I decided that it was sufficient to classify as a "book" so I created a book manually in my LibraryThing account.
Book #24 for 2021 was the previously mentioned pamphlet, "At the end of the world, plant a tree: Considerations for the end of Human Time" by Adam Greenfield. This was something that akin to my reading of Peter Fleming's "The Worst is Yet to Come" in 2019. The pamphlet was an overview of how so many of today's trends spell an end for the interconnected and global world that has only existed for a few decades and only for a small percentage of the world's population. There is, like anything that Greenfield writes, a lot to unpack.
It is said that depressives have a clearer view on the world, something that Greenfield mentions in his pamphlet. Greenfield lays out a stark assessment of how broken our societies and global structures are and how COVID has exposed the flaws and problems, again reminding me of Fleming's argument that things are only going to get worse.
There are positive points in the pamphlet, like the power of community and skill-sharing, and the long-term selfless act of planting a tree. There is symbolism in the act of planting a tree where it is a "gesture toward a time yet to come, even when you know full well there is no future you or your survivors will inhabit or give name to".
So, get out there, plant a tree, commune with your fellow humans, share some skills. And buy the pamphlet as a fundraiser for Libreria which looks like a super cool bookstore.
I finished another segment this week, pushing past Grenfell, Saskatchewan. There is a surprising amount to say about Grenfell on Wikipedia given that it has a population of roughly 1,000 people. My personal reason for including Grenfell as the end of a segment is that two of my great-grandparents are buried there. That would be my father's mother's parents.
Here is the updated progress chart. I am going to push to complete the rest of the next segment so that I can push into Manitoba.
There were three entries on the Music Finds playlist for this week. First up was a new single from Kurt Vile, an artist that I have discovered since subscribing to Tidal. His latest, "Run Run Run" is energetic and catchy. Looking forward to the rest of the upcoming album. Next was an album by the Drug Store Romeos. I must be honest and say that I did not like this album. The songs that had promise on first listen either changed tone halfway through or dragged on too long. For example, "Building Song" starts out strong and really hooked me in, but then it seems to just repeat for four minutes.
Last up was the latest album by the Wallflowers, "Exit Wounds". I read somewhere earlier this week that "One Headlight" by the Wallflowers might be the best song from the 90s, and I think even if it is not, it is one of the best. The new album is good with "The Dive Bar in My Heart" and "I'll Let You Down (But Will Not Give You Up)" as the standouts. I think this is an album that needs a few solid listens to to really appreciate.
Over the last month, I went through my first bag of coffee from Rogue Wave, a roaster from here in Edmonton. I heard from two sources that Rogue Wave is a "passion project", where the owners are in business to continuously improve and offer products that continually innovate and evolve. With an ethos like that, I thought I would try it.
I picked up a Guatemalan been called Bendición. This started out well, with the beans being quite fragrant. The first few cups were good, maybe not what I was looking for, but definitely good. Here is a picture from one of the first espressos I brewed with it.
You can see the nice dark beans and the rich espresso. Unfortunately, the beans got worse quickly. By the end, the beans were dried out and brittle and the output was weak and lacking much flavor. I do not think I did anything wrong as the beans were stored in an airtight glass container in the fridge, exactly like every other bean I use. I will go back and try another bag from Rogue Wave and will ask them if I did something wrong. If that second bag has the same issue though, that will be as far as I get with them.
Two new beers this week, both with a bit of personal connection.
First up, Beer #780 was the Lavender Sour from Moody Ales in Port Moody, BC. This was a good sour, with a nice lemonade flavor and a wonderful aroma from the lavender. I know the owner of the farm that supplies the lavender, so that's a plus. (3.5 / 5)
Second up and coming in as Beer #781 was a beer that caught my eye since it literally has my name written all over it. I was not going to pass up the Robert wild ale from Trial and Ale, another local brewer. This is a wild ale, meaning that the yeast culture is captured from the air and not from a commercial yeast. As a result, there is definitely some wild "funk" in the taste, which is the defining characteristic of wild ales.
The naming of this beer came from the production process where the brewers were calling it "Blood Orange Brett", with Brett being short for Brettanomyces, which is the yeast. So Blood Orange Brett shortened to BOB and then was formalized for production by extending BOB to be Robert.
As for the beer, it was good. Dry and sour with some citrus. I am not sure it was worth $18 but this is an intriguing brewery, and I am definitely going to try more from them.
There were quite a few new words from the Thompson book but those are in my Kobo and I do not feel like getting them out right now. As a result, all of these words are from Greenfield's pamphlet.
53.5° north latitude welcomes you to these pages. Or at least, I do, and I am at 53.5° north latitude, so I suppose I welcome you. Because I certainly do not speak for everyone. That would be presumptuous. Or something else. How would I know what glorified adjective describes what that would be? I don't even know what - insert inverted commas - speak for everyone means. But sometimes I do feel like I should speak for everyone, that only I know what should be said. Other times I want to speak for no one, not even myself. Sometimes the only thing that speaks for me is a song ringing through my ears. (We will cover the literary inspiration for that introduction below.)
The past week was interposed between the joy only long days and warm weather can provide, and bouts of melancholy that can only - at least for me - result from a memorable book. In between, there were three new beers, and a few good sessions in the saddle but not enough to close out a segment, and weirdly no new words unless D-Bag is a new word. Let's get into the recap.
I finished one book this week and finished one a couple of weeks ago but forgot to mention it until now. In the spirit of chronology, I will cover the forgotten one first.
Book #18 for 2021 was "The Flavor Matrix". Now you might look at this and say that it is a cookbook, and you would not be incorrect, and then emboldened by your accurate categorization of said book you might question how I could so cavalierly count a cookbook toward my reading goal. And while this complete disregard for literary integrity inflames your righteous indignation, you might throw down the gauntlet of "What's Next?" and caustically suggest that I will next count the latest three-ingredient cookbook from the neighborhood grocery store checkout counter (cream of mushroom soup, French's fried onions, and Velveeta!) and then scream "What's happening with this world? DOES NO ONE READ ANYMORE?."
But luckily you are not that kind of person, and instead you will merely tilt your head to the side and with a slightly furrowed brow, you will calmly say, "Interesting. That doesn't sound like something you typically count in your reading list. Tell me why you added this one." That will make my smile in silent recognition of why we are such good friends, and I will go on to explain my thought process, which will then cause you to smile back in silent recognition of why we are such good friends.
There are numerous recipes in the book, which therefore qualifies it as a cookbook. I have lots of cookbooks and there is rarely a week that I do not look through "They Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary Edition)" and "How to Cook Everything" for ideas, reminders, and inspiration. In fact, if I cannot get ideas and inspiration from a cookbook, it is no good to me. However, both are cookbooks and not books that one reads. With this in mind, I have never added either to the list of books "read" even if I have read most of both multiple times over the years.
Even though The Flavor Matrix is in part a cookbook, I added it to my list of books read because it is a lot more than that. There is extensive science in the book explaining how each of the obvious and obtuse food pairings make sense. To do that, Matrix covers topics such as the difference between volatile and aromatic compounds and R and S isomers The index provides the main aromas for many foods. For example, one of the main aromas of a grape is beta-ionone. Who knew?
The science and the amount I learned from this book justifies it entering the list of books read for the year. The bonus of this book is that the recipes are quite good.
And as some D-Bag (see below) bellows into the abyss of the Internet that I have no integrity because only morons count cookbooks on lists of books read, we will once again smile at each other in silent recognition of our friendship.
Switching gears completely, Book #19 for 2021 was "High Fidelity" by Nick Hornby. My most-likely-pathetic ode to the mental musings of the protagonist was what you read in the first paragraph of this week's entry. I felt a distinct kinship to Rob Fleming, and not just because of the same first name. His emotional shortcomings and need to find meaning in everything except what is important really hit home. But to be fair, I also feel a kinship because in the end, Rob (the book Rob) got his shit together at similar age and stage to Rob(ert) (the me Rob).
It was a bit weird reading a book that revolved around music written in a time before Napster, a time where mixtapes were still a thing. However, all good books are inevitably about people and relationships, and High Fidelity was no exception. It was easy to ignore Rob the DJ from a quarter-century ago because the point was not about his music but rather about how he used his love for music to enable him being a D-Bag.
That is too close to a spoiler though and I never want to ruin a reading experience on this site, but I feel safe that what I said is okay since the quotes on the book talk about Rob being "suffering" and "self-centered" and mention "childishness". For those of you not good at math, I am pretty sure Suffering + Self-Centered + Childishness = D-Bag.
So a good point, even if it hit a bit too close to home. Go out and read it and see how much of Rob you see in the mirror after you are done.
I had three new beers this week, bringing my total beers logged on Untapped since March 23, 20215 to 769. That comes to a new beer every 2.95 days, which is a bit slower than when I first started writing on this site. My average rating currently sits at 3.36 making all those 3.25 ratings on the wrong side of average.
Beer #767 was the Fantacity Witbier from 2 Crows in Halifax. This was a nice wheat beer with good flavor and hops and is quite refreshing. I'll seek out others from 2 Crows after having this one. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #768 was the Voodoo Ranger IPA from New Belgium. This was good stuff with a nice burst of hops. It had a high ABV that was hardly noticeable, coupled with a great aroma from the mixture of hops. (3.5 / 5)
Last up and coming in at Beer #769 was the Leifur Nr. 32 from Borg Brugghús out of Iceland. Long-suffering friends of mine will know that their GaRun Nr. 19 is one of my favorite beers of all time and one that I would do extreme things to get my hands on once again. With that as a preamble to picking up the Leifur, I was bound to be disappointed. This was a good beer, no question. But it failed to live up to my memory of the GaRun Nr. 19. (3.25 / 5)
I just had to include it. In case you think I made this up, here is the actual link I used.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude. I took last week off since it was a long weekend, and the three days were filled with relaxing. In the other days of the fortnight, I finished a couple books, tried a couple new beers, and gave a talk for public sector leaders in Australia.
The talk was only fifteen minutes long, but I think the material hit the mark. I used the time to explore a way of looking at the value of your Security Information and Event Monitoring (SIEM) tool through a Knowledge Management lens, and then using the knowledge coming out of your SIEM to structure metrics. I will write that out in detail and post it on the Security and Risk section of this site.
Okay, time to move on to the regular sections.
I was able to finish two books in the last fortnight. Book #16 for 2021 was "Where Good Ideas Come From" by Steven Johnson. This was an interesting read for the rigor it put into understanding the genesis of good ideas, and for providing insight into what we can do as individuals or in our organizations to foster the development of good ideas.
One theme from the book was the power of the public sector and the amazing advantages bestowed on society by people focusing on motives other than profit. In parts of the book, Johnson refers to government as a platform, much like any other platform a given age builds from. The argument Johnson makes implies that capitalism would not succeed without some non-market driven platform because the majority of the innovations in the last two centuries come from academia or the public sector. Once those ideas are in place, capitalism can, well, capitalize on those ideas.
Looking at the innovations that were directly spawned by the public sector, it is clear numerous private sector success stories innovations in the technology industry would not have been possible without the public sector. The obvious examples are the Internet and Web, but also include DNA / RNA, Aspirin, and even suspension bridges.
The corollary of this though is that ideas and processes of the private sector should be left there, and not thrust on the public sector.
Political leadership involves some elements that aren't best outsourced to a liquid network; decision-making and oratory.
In other words, not every problem is best solved by the market. In fact, Johnson identified the "fourth quadrant of innovation" which is categorized as non-market driven initiatives driven by a large network of individuals.
Johnson states in the closing paragraph of the book that it is possible to create and foster an innovative society regardless of where we work. This statement helps anchor me in my decision to spend half my career to the public sector.
Most of us, I realize, don't have a direct say in what macro forms of information and economic organization prevail in the wider society, though we do influence that outcome indirectly, in the basic act of choosing between employment in the private or public sector.
The second book this week, and Book #17 for 2021, was "Ringworld" by Larry Niven. This was one of those books I bought years ago and kept waiting for the perfect time to read. Given the influence this book had on science fiction since its debut in 1970, my desire to ensure I was "ready" is understandable.
Unfortunately, there really is no good time to read Ringworld. The book was sexist and in some cases just gross. There were latent and overt rape comments, and females without a purpose beyond sex.
I have read a few books by Philip K. Dick and always went away loving the IDEA of the story without loving the story itself, as Dick is not much of an author. In a way, Ringworld left me with a similar feeling, except for the fact that Dick is a better author than Niven. (Granted that is not fair because my sample size of Niven writings is n = 1, but I do not recall any cringing when I read any of Dick's works.)
My individual rides are enjoyable, and I am happy with the distance I am logging overall. However, I have moved into a different mindset now, where a 10 km ride does not seem worth the effort. This issue I find now is the lack of time on most days to fit in a two-hour ride.
In the last two weeks, I did finish the segment to Rosetown and almost made it to Saskatoon. I should be well on my way to Regina after this upcoming week, but as you can see from this image, I do not have a route planned past Saskatoon.
Not a lot of fun facts on Rosetown on its Wikipedia page beyond the fact that its motto is "The Heart of the Wheat Belt" and there is an airport servicing the area that is apparently not significant enough to warrant an IATA code.
There were three new beers this week, but the Alley Kat one was a six-pack so do not let the low numbers fool you.
Beer #764 was the Holsten Premium lager. I recently had Holsten's Festbock and Maibock, and both were better than this so-called "premium". This was a very thin lager with some active carbonation but no foam. Reminiscent of Budweiser. Draw your own conclusions from that comparison. (2.75 / 5)
Next up and coming in as Beer #765 was the Mangolorian from Alley Kat. Combining mango and the super popular Mandolorian was a clever pun that should have not made it all the way to production. Mango is not a great adjunct for beer IMO, but even so, this suffered from not having enough mango flavor. Sorry Alley Kat - love you guys, but just not this beer.
Rounding out the trio of disappointing beers for this fortnight, Beer #766 was the Glitter Bomb Hazy Pale Ale from Phillips. I should not be surprised about not liking a Phillips beer, given that I did write last summer about how underwhelming I find them. Glitter Bomb was overly foamy and tasted more like a glass of grapefruit juice than a beer. It was not terrible by any means and was the best of the three this fortnight by far, but it was not great either.
Two new words this week, both from the Johnson book on good ideas.
Greetings from 53.5° north latitude after a summer-like week with temperatures in the 20s. Very nice, indeed, but of course, it is only May so days with cooler temperatures are an inevitability. Check out the weather forecast below - high of 8° on Wednesday. That is not much warmer than an average refrigerator.
On the slate for this week is a Chinese work ethic slogan that I had not previously heard of, some comments on a book I finished this week, one of the "Biggar" milestones I will hit in my cross-Canada virtual cycling tour, seven new beers, and a single new word. First up, work in China.
There is a consistent and pervasive macho and even masochistic work ethos in all technology groups that I have been involved in, and the people I know working in the larger technology hubs like San Francisco and Boston would echo my comments.
Counter to that ethos is a growing body of research pointing to the futility of long hours. The most prominent is likely the Stanford study that showed a marked decrease in productivity once a work hit 50 hours in a single week. There are also some firms advocating for shorter work weeks, as noted in this Harvard Business Review article. In addition, the Ryan Holiday book "Stillness is the Key", a book that I finished and commented on last week, argues that long and frenetic hours are completely counter-productive to long term innovation. Taken to the extreme, working long hours can seriously imperil your health and the Japanese even have a word specifically for "overwork death" - karoshi 過労死.
Compare and contrast the research to the 996 model in China. 996 is shorthand for working from 9:00 to 9:00 (21:00), six days a week. 996 is not something I heard of before this week, but it it is not surprising. I do not think there is much difference in the success model of Jack Ma's Alibaba from Jeff Bezos's Amazon - work hard and long.
996 has come under criticism a few times. It seems that every two years there is renewed interest in the concept, and the interest does seem to be tied to deaths of workers. As reported in Fortune earlier this year, Earlier articles such as this 2017 Wall Street Journal article or this 2019 BBC Worklife article highlighted the issue. Forbes said in 2019 that China should move to a model of "work smarter, not harder". (No seriously, the article says that. Check it out - first paragraph, last line. That is such a cliché that countless images have been created with that phrase, but there is a point to the trope even if it seems incredible that it would be used in an article on Forbes.)
Now one cannot downplay the incredible growth China has experienced and the vast proliferation of giant Chinese technology companies. I am also not downplaying cultural differences and how different individuals will assess their personal situations. I am merely arguing that this is not a sustainable model. But as long as there are enormous successes stories like Huawei or Alibaba are often the justification for such grueling hours. In the BBC article quoted above, Alibaba's Jack Ma is quoted that 996 "is a huge blessing" because that is how his success was possible.
It is worth noting that this is not isolated to China. Pick any successful technology firm anywhere in the world and there is a good chance you will find the same mindset.
I was able to finish one book this week. Book 15 for 2021 was the thoroughly enjoyable "The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her MInd" by Jackson Ford. This story about a young lady trying to live a normal life while burdened with psychokinetic powers had a few stunning twists and multiple out-loud-gasp moments. I heard about this book from the weekly newsletter from Orbit Books and I am glad I did. I will definitely check out the other books in the series.
I was able to log 98 km in the saddle this week. I was planning on spending a couple hours this morning to crank out 40 km to close out two segments in the current leg, but instead I spent a couple hours riding 20 km of single-track and multi-use trail with my younger daughter. That is a perfect trade in my books.
So this week I was able to close out the segment to Biggar, Saskatchewan. I visited Biggar with my family as a kid of maybe 10 or 12, and still remember the town sign saying "New Your is Big, but this is Biggar".
I do not recall anything about Biggar beyond the sign, but Wikipedia has a few interesting facts. First, it is the birthplace of Sandra Schmirler, aka Schmirler the Curler, the skip for the 1998 Olympic Gold Medal curling team. Second, it was the closest urban center to where Coulten Boushie was murdered.
Below is the updated progress chart. It is unlikely that I will finish the Lloydminster-Saskatoon segment in the upcoming week, but it is possible.
There are seven beers to log this week, but before you call for an intervention remember that is over two weeks since I did not enter any last week. I stocked up on singles from the local Wine & Beyond a couple weeks ago, and their selection of singles that I had not tried was pretty much limited to Germans. That will be obvious as you go through the list.
Beer #757 was the Holsten Maibock. I still found this to have a bit of silky maltiness even though a maibock is supposed to be less malty and more hoppy. The high ABV did provide a strong taste, but overall this was okay. (3.25 / 5)
Beer #758 was the Radenbach Classic. The guy at the checkout and my contacts on Untappd rave about this but I just did not see the appeal. There was only touch of sour, and a color like a brown ale. The long-lasting lazy carbonation was fun to watch, but the spiky booziness did not give it much flavor. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #759 was the Paulaner Salvator Doppelbockbier. I really liked this one. It tasted like boozy chocolates, with a nice haziness, and very lazy carbonation. Quite a lot of flavor and color for a German beer. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #760 was another Holsten, this one being their Festbock. I was hopeful that this would be better than the Holsten Maibock since it is supposed to be a traditional bock. Unfortunately, I liked it less than the Maibock. There was no carbonation, but it did have a nice color and was a bit caramelly. There was surprisingly little booziness for the ABV, but really not much flavor either. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #761 was another from Paulaner. Their Munchner Hell Munich Lager had active carbonation, nearly zero foam, but also nearly zero taste. Well constructed, very easy drinking, but also boring and as a result I was disappointed after having their Salvator earlier. (3.0 /5)
The only non-German beer to report on, coming in as Beer #762, was the Fernie Brewing Thunder Meadows IPA. This has lots of piney hops, a nice copper haziness, and a long-lasting foam. A solid beer. (3.25 / 5)
Last up for the week and coming in as Beer #763 was the Schneider Weisse Aventinus Weizendoppelbock, or wheat double bock. Just like the Fernie, this was another hazy copper beauty but this was better. Almost sweet, and you can see the silkiness as it pours. High ABV, low booze burn. (3.5 / 5)
Just a single new word this week.
Greetings once again from 53.5° north latitude. The week was long, but I am not off for a week and very much looking forward to riding, cooking, and likely doing a bunch of cleaning and yard work.
The entry this week will be pretty light. There was no time in the week to find anything really profound, and I will leave the beers until next week. That will leave two books, a cycling update, and two words.
Let's get on with it, shall we?
I was able to finish two books this week. As I predicted last week, I was able to finish one last week, but it was late Sunday when it got done, well past the time that I finished the blog entry. So technically one of the books this week was actually last week, but in the end it does not really matter, now does it?
Book #14 for 2021 was "M is for Malice" by Sue Grafton. This is the third book I have read in the Alphabet Series in 2021, and this one takes me over the half-way point in the series. This one was very enjoyable with a bit more of the soft side of Kinsey showing through. I was 90% through the book and I honestly thought the series was getting predictable. I saw through the obvious killer and picked up the subtle clues to the not-so-obvious killer. I had this one figured out, or so I thought. I do not want to give anything away, but we can just say that I was wrong, and surprised.
Book #15 for 2021 was "Stillness in the Key" by Ryan Holiday. This is a philosophy book, but not so much a self-help book. It presented numerous ideas, theories, and practices, all around pushing you to find time to be calm, relax, and think. There were a lot of references to Churchill, some of which I remember from my recent reading of "The Splendid and the Vile", but also Leonardo da Vinci, Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, Buddha, and Jesus. It presented a lot to think about, but since it was not a self-help book per se, there was not a formula to follow and implement. I suppose that might be the point of the book - you need to spend the time to think about the lessons in the book to actually put them into action. The need to think and internalize is important, and I think that is part of the message Holiday was imparting. Really good stuff, and likely a book I will go back to periodically to refresh and refocus.
My last milestone report for my virtual cross-Canada cycling tour was two weeks ago when I rolled into Lloydminster. For the update this week, I made it past North Battleford, Saskatchewan and about half way to Biggar. (I am super excited to hit Biggar!)
Fun facts about North Battleford, according to Wikipedia. The population of the North Battleford area was 17,595 according to the 2011 census, which somewhat shockingly puts it as the fifth most populous area in Saskatchewan. Sadly, Maclean's magazine named it the most dangerous place to live in 2018. Finally, there is an airport close to North Battleford with the callsign of CYQW.
Here is the updated progress chart of the tour up to the most recent ride. I should have no problem getting to Biggar this week.
As mentioned above, just two new words this week. After the seemingly never-ending list of words coming from the Churchill book, it seems odd to have so few in the last three weeks.