Welcome to the first entry for 2020, still from 53.5° north latitude, still reading, still finding new beers to drink. So what's the big deal with the new year then?
I hit 50 books read for 2019 with under 15 hours left in the year. I finished the last 57 pages of "Collapse" by Jared Diamond in the morning of New Year's Eve. This was a book that I started with great enthusiasm, but ended with relief. The second section on the history of past societies such as Maya, the Vikings, and Japan were great. I was genuinely interested and learned a lot, and I could see how Diamond was using history to teach us about the present. The third section was decent, but was hard to get through, maybe because I have heard a lot about China and Rwanda in particular in the years since Collapse was released (2005). The fourth section, titled "Practical Lessons" and structured to be the follow-up to the history lesson Diamond presented in the second section was a hundred pages of tedium. When I said I finished the last 57 pages, I probably only read the equivalent of 10 full pages. The rest was just skimmed through.
I think Collapse is an important book in that it is filled with science and research on the impacts of societal decisions that lead to environmental disasters that then cause those societies to fail. However, I do not know how relevant Collapse is anymore. If you staunchly do not believe in the need to make different ecological decisions, this book will not likely sway you. If you already believe, there is not much point in this book other than as a reference. Maybe this will be a useful tool to sway the rest of the population that does not fit into either camp, but I suspect that camp is rather small at this point.
I'll leave this section off with a quote from Collapse that seemed directly pertinent for the current political and economic climate here at home.
Yes, environmental problems do constrain human societies, but the societies' responses also make a difference. So, too, for better or for worse, do the actions and inactions of their leaders.
joined two reading groups on Reddit this month to help further my reading goals around big classic novels. The "War and Peace" (r/ayearofwarandpeace) and "The Count of Monte Cristo" (r/AReadingofMonteCristo) groups have so far been very engaging and interesting to participate in. War and Peace comes in at 361 chapters, so we will be reading and discussing a chapter pretty much every day this year. That will be an interesting way to read a book. Monte Cristo has an equally daunting thickness but with less chapters, meaning that we will only hold discussion threads every third day or so on that subreddit.
Wish me luck on having the stamina to read and follow along with both reading groups this year.
With a couple weeks off came a small handful of new beers. Three came in one sitting at Brewsters, and two were pickups from various stores, four were Albertan, and all were Canadian. The locale unfortunately did not translate into really good beers though. The list started off positively with the Howitzer Strong Winter Ale from Brewsters (3.75 / 5), but after that everything was at best average. The first taste of Brewster's Civic Pride Watermelon Ale was shockingly tangy but only got marginally better after the initial taste (3.0 / 5). The final offering from Brewsters was their Cappucino Stout and I couldn't finish it. The coffee flavor seemed like it was brewed by someone that didn't know how to brew coffee (2.25 / 5). After that, I had the Serpens Pilsner from Legend Seven Brewing in Calgary. That was decent (3.25 / 5), but I have to say the labels on the Legend Seven beers are fantastic pieces of art. Lastly, fading back into the land of disappointment, the 78 Kolsch from Philips was uniformly underwhelming - not a lot of flavor, not really that crisp, no aroma. (2.75 / 5)
With those five beers in the last fortnight comes four new badges from Untappd: Winter Wonderland (Level 2), The Great White North (Level 90), Rising Steady (Level 59), and Hopped Down (Level 33). Regarding the Untappd badges, when I initially starting logging my beers, adding the Untappd badges added some interesting visuals to the page, but I don't get anything out of them and really don't care. As a result, this is the last time I am going to post anything about the Untappd badges.
I do like the statistics that can come from Untappd however, so I think I will export my statistics from time to time and then work on my graphing and data manipulation skills to post something of value. For now, my total as of today is 621 unique beers since joining Untappd, which means a new beer every 2.82 days. I had the 78 Kolsch was Saturday night during supper, so I suppose I should schedule my next new beer early afternoon on Tuesday.
Quite a few new words this week, in fact this must be the longest list I have yet to compile. The vast majority are coming from the technical descriptions in Diamond's Collapse, but a few come from the Tolstoy and Dumas readings.
vicissitudes (plural noun)