Greetings from 53.5° north latitude week that varied from highs of 22 °C to 9 °C. I suppose that should not be surprising given that we just entered May this weekend, but the variation is hard to deal with.
There were two interesting articles that I want to share before we get into the usual sections. One deals with the George Floyd murder trial, and the other deals with a Canadian Prime Minister that I honestly knew very little about before this week.
The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020 was a reprehensible act. There is no question in my mind that Chauvin is guilty of murder and thankfully the jurors agreed. On April 20, 2020, Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all three counts.
60 Minutes interviewed the prosecution team for their show last week. The full clip is at both times sobering and heart-rending, but also hopeful. Maybe, just maybe, someone like Derek Chauvin in some other police force out there will realize that he cannot act with impunity, that he is supposed to respect and protect all lives and not just the lives of white people, and that there are real and significant consequences for all acts of police brutality.
"Was [racism] Mr. Chauvin's motive? Who knows? There weren't any explicit, overt statements made, but most people do have a hard time believing that this would've happened to the typical white citizen in the state of Minnesota." - Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell
The video and images from the murder are still hard to view, and hopefully they are always hard to view. George Floyd should not have died, should not have been murdered. If any good can come out of his death, I hope it is that this is the end, at least the beginning of the end, of systemic, institutionalized racism, whether that is against black people in America or Indigenous people in Canada.
Okay. Trying to ... move on? ... No, that is not what I mean. It is more like needing to continue to live without forgetting.
Switching gears, I now want to talk about a white, old, Canadian male who died nearly fifty years ago. Louis St. Laurent was Canada's twelfth Prime Minster, serving nearly nine years from 1948 to 1957. He was described as a strong Canadian nationalist and was by all accounts a very effective leader.
Not that I knew any of this about him, mind you. There is a Catholic high school named after him and I did not even realize who it referred to until this week. So yeah, some dude that I knew nothing about.
St. Laurent came to my attention this week when I read the March 2021 issue of "Inside Policy" from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute. The cover of the issue has a picture of St. Laurent with the words "The Legacy of Louis St. Laurent: When governments got things done". My immediate reaction was of scoffing indifference - here is another case of looking back at the past with a bias that everything was better before - but I read the article anyway thinking that this was going to be a series of potshots at Justin Trudeau, a leader that the Institute has made no secret of their dislike.
In contrast, the Institute extolled the virtues of St. Laurent. To wit:
On almost every issue it touched, [St. Laurent's] government modernized the idea of Canada, either in its support of new programs or in its international relations.
The list of accomplishments provided in the articles include: approving Canada's participation in NATO; recognizing the state of Israel; overseeing coordination with American air defence, which later resulted in NORAD; expansion of the shipways along the St. Lawrence; the Trans-Canada Highway; multiple radar lines including the Distant Early Warning system; the Canso Causeway; a pipeline from Alberta to central Canada; a push for the aerospace industry which resulted in the Avro Arrow; and, universal hospital insurance.
That is quite a list, by any measure. The Rt. Hon. Louis St. Laurent deserves more recognition that he currently has based on that list of accomplishments. I am sure he had flaws, but I could not find any online and none were referenced in his Wikipedia entry. There was an article by Conrad Black that said he had "never heard a negative, or even slightly disrespectful, comment, including from his opponents" about St. Laurent. Quite an individual, apparently.
I was able to finish two books this week and will likely finish a third this week but after I post the entry for this week.
Book #12 for 2021 was "But What If We're Wrong?" by Chuck Klosterman. This is a book of separate but connected essays around the theme that in the future people will look back at us and see our present / their past completely differently than we do. This makes sense when you think about how we in our present reflect on our past which is of course someone else's present. This book does a good job to blow up the idea that we know what is true, and what future people will think about our truths. There are a number of good points in the book, but the one about American football and team sports blew my mind.
"The first possibility is that football survives because of its explicit violence, and this this discomfiting detail ends up being its twisted salvation. The second possibility is that football will indeed disappear - but not just because of its brutality. It will disappear because all team sports are going to disappear, and football will merely be the first." --Chuck Klosterman, "But What If We're Wrong?"
I do not watch sports any more. I have watched two hockey games since the end of the 2012 NHL season (one of which I was in a bar celebrating a friend's birthday, and the other I was on a guys weekend in the mountains with a couple friends). I have watched a bit more baseball in that time period but not really much after the Cubs won the World Series in 2016. I stopped watching football (soccer) after Tottenham lost the Champions League to Liverpool in 2019.
I bring that up because I just assumed my lack of interest in sports was just something about me, but Klosterman made me think that maybe society at large will move away from watching team sports. Not everyone of course, especially in the case of American football as Klosterman sees it, but for the majority of people. It is nearly impossible to imagine our world without team sports, but that is the essence of Klosterman's book - what about the modern and present day will seem ridiculous in the future?
Give his book a read to see if there are any similar revelations for you.
Book #13 was "The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street" by Lauren Oliver. This was a book that I read with my younger daughter. There was a lot to like about this book in the early stages - an interesting premise, strong characters, funny monsters, and a compelling mystery. But like a lot of books it unfortunately hobbled to the conclusion. We were thirty-two pages from the end assuming it was the first in a series because there was no way it would be wrapped up that quickly. It was, but unfortunately not in a satisfying way. There were definitely some high points along the way, but not enough to be something I would consider "good". Not every book can be something to savor for all time, but I would rather read a marginal book than not read.
It has been quite a while since I last reviewed a coffee. This is because I purchased multiple bags of the previously reviewed beans and was going through them before trying something new. My most recent new coffee was the Ethical Bean Sweet Espresso. I was looking forward to this one as the company has a good story to tell and I quite like their decaf. Their espresso though was quite thin and did not have a lot of taste. I upped the amount of beans but that did not help much. I get more crema and taste from their decaf. You might not be able to tell from the picture, but the beans are very dry and brittle, which probably leads to the lack of crema.
I had two more beers from Cabin Brewing, the end of a four-pack sampler. Beer #755 was their Falling Skies Dark Sour with Apricots. The first taste of this was extremely sour, but I got used to it very quickly. I did not pick up much of the apricot flavor, which is too bad. In summary, a sour for the sake of being sour with an ingredient that did not add much to the beer. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #756 was their Morning Sun Farmhouse Ale / Saison. This was decent stuff. Refreshing and just carbonated enough to give a bit of a pop. Lots of mild fruit flavor and a nice aroma. (3.25 / 5)
(Note that I have recalibrated my beer numbers in this blog to align with what is on Untappd. If you recall, I mentioned last week that the numbers were out of sync between this blog and Untappd. I assume I just messed up somewhere on this blog since beer #700.)
Just two new words this week. The first one was from a "Choose Your Own Adventure" style rendition of Romeo and Juliet and was in the colophon. (Yes, I am the kind of person that reads the colophon.)
Greetings from the confirmed location of 53.5° north latitude. Contrary to the standard definition, this past week was at least 15 days long. It was not a bad week by any means, just long. As I mentioned last week, I was trying to sell a car on Kijiji and that was an experience that I would not wish on many people. It ended up being a successful transaction and I am happy we did not just accept the trade-in amount from the dealer, but it was a lot of work.
From a sociological perspective, we - or at least I - have self-selected a pretty narrow slice of the population to interact with. Middle-class, cycling enthusiasts, technology focused, liberal-minded. Every once in a while, our daughters will make a friend with someone that comes from a family that is on the periphery of that slice. Maybe they will be more liberal, more educated, more religious, or younger, but usually there is enough common ground to build a relationship on.
Selling something on Kijiji puts you on the outside of that slice and exposes you to the entire spectrum of people and humanity. There is no way to be insular as the act of posting that ad blows up the bubble of comfort one has with the self-selected circle of friends. Of the nearly 100 people that I interacted with during the process, I was exposed to many different types of people. Some were quite friendly. Some were less concerned about keeping appointments and obligations than I am. (Trying to be polite.) There were lots of people with writing styles and grammar that suggest recent arrivals to Edmonton. There were lots of people with writing styles and grammar I would consider lazy . There were also a lot of people that knew how to fix up cars, which is clearly not a demographic represented in my current bubble.
As I said about, the transaction was successful and I was not concerned about the deal turning ugly, but walking away from the deal with a pocket full of brown bills was a bit nerve-wracking.
Moving on, I was catching up on emails the other day and I came across a newsletter from Studio D that was really interesting (sign up here if interested). I know about Studio D from a Kickstarter that I backed a few years ago. Their Field Study Handbook is an amazing book filled with best practices and templates to successfully do field work pretty much anywhere in the world. I pull it out and flip through it often just to read about topics like In-depth Interview Stages, how to build a Pop-Up studio, and how to pitch a research project.
In the newsletter, Studio D asks the question "What skills does one need today?". At the top of the list is literacy and numeracy, which seem like obvious choices.
We live in a time when literacy is the dominant skill—learning how to write, read, and comprehend what is written, closely followed by numeracy. Given that there was a time before literacy (roughly 7,000 years ago), will we live to experience a post-literate world? For example where communication with letters and words is essentially delegated to or abstracted by technology? - Studio D, Radar Newsletter #24
They suggest that there are five other -acies that one should focus on.
Four of those five -acies are made up words, but the concept behind them and the need for them seems obvious. I am particularly intrigued by the concept of Artificialacy. Knowing when some corporate algorithm tampered with your entertainment stream is not something I considered before but is something I will look out for in the future.
As a parent, one focus I am trying to impart on my daughters is self-sufficiency. They should know the basics like how to wash laundry, how to budget and invest, how to plan and manage conflicting tasks, how to cook at least ten different meals. I am also trying to teach them the importance of having a good toolkit. In the past, this meant knowing how to use a hammer, saw, screwdriver, and maybe even a multimeter. Today though, I am expanding the definition of toolkit to include macros and commands in Excel, and coding with Python. Most of those fit into literacy and numeracy. Thinking about how to incorporate the additional -acies presented by Studio D will be an interesting parenting challenge.
I was able to finish another book this past week, and got half way through another. Book #11 for 2021 was "Lost Light", the ninth book in the Harry Bosch series from Michael Connelly. I really enjoy the Harry Bosch books, but for some reason I have not read one since 2016. In this installment, Bosch is now retired but has not given up being a detective and decides to investigate a cold case from four years prior.
I really cannot say much more as I risk giving away the plot. Suffice it to say that for this book, Bosch comes to grip with life as an ex-cop, and because he is Harry Bosch, he pisses a lot of people off. Well worth the read if you are going through the series and potentially good enough to read without reading the first the first eight books in the series.
This week was for good for cycling and my cross-Canada virtual tour, with just over 100 km in the saddle. In addition, I closed off the final two segments of the current leg between Edmonton and Lloydminster.
With that leg complete, I now move into my third province on the virtual tour. This next leg between Lloydminster and Saskatoon is a decent length of 411 km. At my current pace, I will be able to complete is by early June.
Fun facts about Vermillion and Lloydminster. Vermillion was founded in 1902 and had a population of just under 4,100 in the 2016 census. Lloydminster is a border city, with a split between Alberta and Saskatchewan. Lloydminster has a population of 31,410 according to the 2016 census, with 63% of the population living in the Alberta portion of the city. This makes sense when I first saw the numbers given the lack of a sales tax in Alberta which would seem to be an economic driver to focus living in Alberta. However, the Wikipedia article points out that the Saskatchewan side of Lloydminster is exempted from the Saskatchewan sales tax so as to not penalize Saskatchewan businesses.
Next up is North Battleford and then on to Saskatoon via Biggar and Rosetown.
There are a lot of beers to report this week, but that is because I did not report on any last week. Even so, seven beers in fourteen days is faster than my current overall pace since March 2015 of one new beer every 2.95 days.
The first beer of the fortnight and coming in as Beer #749 was the Troubled Monk If the Crown Fits Kettle Sour. A ton of pineapple and a very fresh taste. I find kettle sours are often not that sour but this one seemed too un-sour to carry that label. That said, this was very tasty and I could see this beer being a huge hit on a crowded patio some day. Hopefully. (3.75 / 5)
Beer #750 was the Pond Surfer ale from Town Square. I was expecting a more bitter taste based on the color but this was very easy-drinking. A bit of pithiness but not too much and a nice level of malt. Good stuff. (3.5 / 5)
Next up and coming in as Beer #751 was the Albertosourus from Edmonton brewery Campio. Based on recommendations from friends, I went in with high expectations but was disappointed. This one smelled more sour than it was unfortunately. It did have a beautiful color, but I found the fruit flavors were too mixed and muddled. (3.0 / 5)
Beer #752 was the Arcade Glow Pale Ale from Boombox Brewing out of Vancouver. This was a decent ale with a fair bit of hops and some nice crackery malt. I will have to look out for more from Boombox in the future. (3.5 / 5)
The next beer was a complete departure from the standard offering. Beer #753 was the Phillips Zonkey is supposed to be a Brown Ale, which is not something I typically like. For this one though, the first taste was "wow". Very fresh. Added a nice sweetness to the standard muddled brown ale. The ginger has a bit of zing to it for sure. (3.75)
Last up were two beers from Cabin Brewing out of Calgary. I have raved about Cabin of late and was really hoping for another two knockouts. Beer #754 was their Starburst ESB (labeled as a Triple on Untappd). This was very good with the freshness completely masking the high ABV (9.5%). Lots of fruits and a great aroma. Definitely one to pick up and hoard in the back of the fridge away from unappreciative guests. (4.0 / 5) And finally, Beer #755 was their Night Kitchen ('Smores) Imperial Stout. I did pick up some creaminess from the lactose, but not as much as other Imperials. (My reference beer for this style is still the Iconic Milk Stout from Situation.) Overall, this was good but a bit weird. (3.0 / 5)
Note that my numbering on this blog and on Untappd no longer match, and I am not sure why. Untappd has me at 754 beers but the numbers seem to reconcile back to Beer #700. I will dig in and see if I can figure out the issue.
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 from 53.5° north. The past week was filled with reading, beer, and cycling, plus a recognition of the need to set weekly goals for words written if I am ever going to complete that proposal for the book I want to write. Tracking progress towards goals and milestones is instrumental for making progress in everything else I do, so I wonder why it took me to this week to realize that for this particular item. I am going to stay silent on the actual content of the book until the proposal is submitted, regardless of whether it is accepted or not, but I will comment on progress on this site.
With that, let's get on with the update - one book read, one segment completed, and two-but-actually-only-one new beers.
Depending on how you count which week we are in 2021, today marks the end of the eleventh or twelfth week of the year. If I am going to read 52 books in 2021, I should have finished eleven or twelve books by now, but I am unfortunately not close to that goal. I have one book in progress that should be done in the next week, plus another that is quite short that should also be done in the next few days. That will still put me below pace though, so I need to get focused.
Book #7 for 2021 was "The Splendid and The Vile" by Erik Larson. I picked this up from the library as I was intrigued by the name, without any idea that it was a historical account of World War II and the coterie around Winston Churchill. There was a lot about Churchill of course, but Larson goes into depth about one of Churchill's personal secretaries, his daughter, his daughter-in-law, his wife, a few close confidants, and to a certain extent, the King.
Showing the quirks of the protagonist's personalities highlighted that as great as these people were, they were just people with hopes, dreams, fears, and ambitions much like anyone else. Churchill was clearly flawed - as we all are - but he was able to work with and around his flaws to lead his nation in a war that was constantly hammering his country. The Nazis thought Churchill's flaws would be Britain's undoing, but I think his flaws shone a light on his humanity, and it was this humanity that allowed his country to rally behind him.
The book was filled with great anecdotes and quotes. I will not share them here for fear of spoiling the surprise. It is a rather long book, but it was a quick read, and highly recommended at that.
I am working on increasing my average distance traveled to 10 km per day. My average ride per trip is over 15 km, which I am happy with considering we are just coming out of the winter months. The daily average overall regardless of whether I rode or not is too low though, coming in at 8.9 km. My goal is to consistently get that above 10 km per day, or 3650 km in a year.
The math behind my averages is as follows: It has been 172 days since I started logging my trips for my virtual cross-Canada tour, and I have traveled 1525 km. By the end of March I will be at the half-way point for a year and should be over 1600 km. However, a half year based on a 10 km per day average would mean 1825 km traveled. Much like my comments about reading and writing, tracking progress is important to keep me on track.
In the last week, I was able to complete the Hinton-Edson segment, and am now about 25% of the way through the Edson-Edmonton segment. At my 10 km day average, I will complete the Valemount to Edmonton leg in two weeks. For now, here is a visual look at my progress.
I was able to try one new beer this week, continuing a streak of disappointment with a favorite brewery. I also happily dug into a new beer from what I thought was a new-to-me brewery and was surprised to find that I had already had that beer.
Beer #740 was yet another from Collective Arts, their IPA No. 15. I was a bit down on Collective Arts after the last few beers so I went into this one somewhat tepid. It was close to being great, so close. It had lots of grapefruit without the drying pith that so many IPAs fail on. Very smooth, but unfortunately it was flat and without much life. If this was not a can, I would have suspected an old keg. Overall a lot of promise but just not quite a winner. (3.25 / 5)
The brewery that I thought was new-to-me was Trolley 5, a brewpub out of Calgary. They have a surprisingly large lineup and I tried their First Crush White IPA on the recommendation from a friend. I quite enjoyed it and was thinking about rating it 3.5 or 3.75 when I logged into Untappd. I first had First Crush in September 2018 and rated it 3.75 at that time. The consistent rating is a good sign that I do not vary in my assessments. Unfortunately though I was unable to claim another check-in, but my personal goal to drink one of every beer in the world is a stretch goal, after all.
So many new words, courtesy of Larson's book on Churchill. A number of the new words were taken directly from quotes from Churchill's minutes and memos that Larson peppered throughout the book. There are too many to address in one week, so I will do about one-quarter of them this week.
machicolations (plural noun)
Greetings from a day-after-daylight-savings 53.5° north latitude. There is still ice in alleys and on some roads and sheltered areas along the paths, but cycling became much more fun this last week. The average speed is increasing to a respectable number for the winter bike with studded tires, and the top-end speed is entering speeding ticket territory.
Beyond boring cycling statistics and a couple beers, there was not much to report this week. There is one follow-up to the Bill C-10 Broadcasting Act changes that I posted four weeks ago. Michael Geist posted an update on his blog this week and lamented that the bill continues to have "no firm thresholds, no rules on intellectual property, no exclusion of news, and nothing on Canadian ownership." Geist blasts the Liberals in his closing paragraph with this doozy of a sentence: "The amateurish release of the bill, the steady stream of blunders, and the absence of details all speak to a Minister and department that want a George W. Bush-like “Mission Accomplished” moment and then to quickly move onto the other issues, leaving the CRTC to clean up the mess."
In case the Liberals do not get their Dubya moment, I will offer this up for them. (As a bonus, read the linked CBS article for a synopsis of the a reminder of that bit of spin doctoring.)
Four new beers were tried this week, but none were homeruns unfortunately. That said, none of them were bad either but since all four beers were from my two favorite breweries, I was disappointed.
Beer #736 was yet another from Collective Arts. This one was their IPA No. 14. I had their IPA No. 12 eleven months ago. While I am on the number theme, this is my seventeenth check-in for a beer from Collective Arts. Back to No. 14, there was lots of citrus and juice but it tasted more like pineapple to me than the grapefruit the label suggested. Lots of juice flavor regardless. The citrus, hops, and malt hid the high ABV nicely. (3.5 / 5)
Beer #737 continued the Collective Arts streak, now up to 18 unique check-ins on Untappd. The Grapefruit and Pomegranate Sour had a great color and aroma. I definitely picked up the grapefruit in this one as opposed to the IPA No. 14 I mentioned above. I did not get much of the pomegranate flavor though and the sour seemed somewhat like an afterthought unfortunately. It was okay, but that's it. (3.25)
Moving from Collective Arts to Alley Kat now. I picked up a four-pack with two different Alley of their latest Back Alley Brews. I am a big fan of their limited run BAB series, in particular the Ocean Pearl and Bob's Your Dunkel were great, so I definitely went into these two with high hopes.
Beer #738 was the Alley Kat Highway to Helles, which I thought was a good pun until I searched on Untappd on got 58 hits. This was exactly what you should expect in a solid German lager. Crisp, clean, and clear. But it is styled after a German lager, which I find pretty dull unfortunately. Points for hitting the style though. (3.25 / 5)
Last up for the week, the sixtieth unique check-in from Alley Kay, and Beer #739 was their Red Demon Red Rice Lager. Definitely sensed the rice as soon as I raised the glass. Reminded me of drinking Japanese rice beers at Nomiya (which made me sad and nostalgic). Good for the style, but I guess I was hoping for more from the last Back Alley Brew. (3.25 / 5)
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 \]