Sunday, June 26, 2016

Book Review - Training Aces

I have always had an interest in the air war during the First World War. Aviation was so new, yet quickly adapted for war. The Wright Brothers made the first flight in 1903 and eleven years later, war broke out.

Training Aces tells the story of how Canada trained men for this new method of warfare.

When the First World War broke out, little was known about aviation. Even less was known about using the biplane as a new weapon. "Training Aces: Canada’s Air Training During the First World War" chronicles the development of military aviation in Canada that began in the years before the war when early flight experiments were made by the Canadians and Americans, including Alexander Graham Bell, William Wallace Gibson, John Douglas McCurdy, William McMullen, Glenn H. Curtiss and William Straith.

This book portrays the important role that Canada played in the success of the air training efforts before and during the First World War, and describes the establishment of two aviation companies in Toronto and Vancouver. The Canadian air training system played a significant role in the overall development of military aviation and had a major impact on the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan of the Second World War.

I have read about the exploits of Canadian aces, Billy Bishop and Wop May and found it very interesting to read in this book the training they would have to go through. The author, Peter C. Conrad, lays out in great detail the advancements in training that were made during the war years.

Where the Wright Brothers had flown the very first heavier than air flight, and designed what they considered the first commercial plane, Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, thought their design was flawed and created a much safer and durable version. The first part of the book covers extensively Bell's work in this area.

One thing I really enjoyed was the amount of pictures that were in the book. They really brought the atmosphere of the period to the reader.

This is a must read for those with an interest in World War One and Canada's role in it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My June 2016 Canada Craft Club Beer Delivery

Yesterday I wasn't home when my Canada Craft Club beer delivery came so tonight I ran up to the post office and picked it up.

We did all the work so you don't have to. We've scoured the planet and found true gems especially for our members — delivered direct to your home or office every month.

Our packs are delivered in discreet packaging (so no one swipes your brews) and prices include shipping. You can trust that every single beer has been hand-selected for your pack by Canada Craft Club’s experienced tasters and experts, some of whom sit on tasting panels in prestigious worldwide brewing competitions. What this really means is that we tasted, tested and rated every single beer before giving them our stingy stamp of approval for our treasured members. We try to shake it up for you, and fill your pack with beers you might not have had or can’t get anywhere else.

Each month I receive two 650 ml bottles or larger, each one from a different brewery. This month's package features a Yakima IPA from Le Castor Brewing Company in Quebec and a Jalepeno 777 from Scuttlebutt Brewing from the state of Washington.

I'm looking forward to both but hoping to share the 777 with a neighbor as I really can't do spice heat any more.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Beer of the Week - Two Beers from Nine Locks Brewery

Teena knows that I enjoy English ales and IPAs so when she was out east on business, she brought me back both from Nine Locks Brewery.

The idea for Nine Locks Brewery came to the two cousins, Shaun and Danny O’Hearn, where else but on a hot summer evening in 2014, while sipping on a cold one. The doors to the brewery opened in Dartmouth, in January of this year.

Why the name Nine Locks? The name Nine Locks Brewing Co. is named for the nine locks of the historic Shubenacadie Canal, completed in 1856, which was built to move agriculture, timber and coal between Halifax and the Shubenacadie River, the Bay of Mines and the Annapolis Valley.

So how about the beer?


The ESB pours a brownish, coppery colour with an off white head. There is a little earthiness in the aroma with a little hop bite.

The beer starts with that bit of English hop bite but the malt comes in to settle it down, just for a moment.  That enjoyable hop bitterness comes back through an thoroughly enjoyable finish. This is a nicely done ESB. Not too bitter, a little complex and very enjoyable to drink.


The IPA pours an amber colour with a white head and bitter citrus to the nose. I really enjoy finding bitter citrus in an aroma!

Right away in the first sip, the bitter citrus makes its presence known. It's not overpowering but very enjoyable. This lasts through the entire sip and the very long finish. Another very tasty treat from this brewery.

If I lived down east, I would be having more of these.

Beer of the Week Stats

Beers Profiled 320
Breweries 288
Countries 46

Time for a New Camera, A Canon SX710 HS

Finally I went out and bought myself a new camera, a Canon SX710 HS.

I bought my Old Canon SX270 HS camera back in 2013. It went everywhere with me and was banged around quite a bit. Finally the doors fell off and the side door no longer would close.

Yesterday I was out with Teena taking pictures and found the remaining doors would not open all the way. Time to head out and get a new camera.

I really like Canon cameras and won't stray away from them. This Canon SX710 HS was on sale at Best Buy and yes, it came home with me. It has 30 times optical zoom. Can't wait to take this to the next Blue Jays game!

Teena might recognize this camera, as it is the same one she has. I wanted black but they only had red. Looks like, once again, we have samezies in cameras.  I put my old grey strap on mine so we can tell them apart.

Looking forward to having this camera traveling around with me.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

People Enjoying KC's Tree

Teena and I were heading over to the Taste of Little Italy and made a detour to see how KC's tree was doing. It was nice to see people relaxing under the tree, which looks very healthy. This happy fella here is enjoying the cool shade from the tree.

The tree was planted in October 2011, as a tribute to our dog, KC, who passed away the spring at the age of 16. Nice to see it so healthy and being enjoyed by others.

More Down East Beer

Teena had another work trip down east last week and when she came back home, she had some more beer for me.

While on a short layover at Halifax airport, she pick me up two bottles of Spruce Beer from Garrison Brewing at Liquid Assets. It's a beer I haven't had since 2012 and am so looking forward to it.

Originally I had thought that the small island province of P.E.I. only had two craft beer breweries, PEI Brewing and Gahan House, but Teena found a third, Upstreet Craft Brewing, located in Charlottetown. Of course, she came back with two brews from them.

Thanks, honey!

Friday, June 17, 2016

The First Annual Canadian Writers Conference, Toronto

Today was the second day of the first annual Canadian Writers Summit, which is taking place at Harbourfront in Toronto this weekend. Over 800 people were in attendance. Last night I was at Lakeside Play Readings, which was an excellent way for me to start this summit.

I had a full slate of seminars ahead of me when I headed out.

My first session at 9:30am was That Elusive Writing Grant — Not So Elusive Anymore?, which was hosted by Francis Farley-Chevrier with Simon Brault, Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts, as the speaker.

It was an interesting session explaining how the Trudeau government has increased funding for the Canadian Council, realizing how important the arts are to a nation. There was an overview of how the council works and how the new funds will be allocated. It was a bilingual session so we were issued translators.

Next up at 10:30am, in the same theater, was Libraries, Lending, and Payments to Authors: Challenges and Opportunities for Public Lending Right Systems Around the World. It was hosted by Beatriz Hausner, who is a librarian with Toronto Public Libraries and Chair of the Public Lending Write Program (PLR) in Canada.

Beatriz explained how the the PLR currently works in Canada and will work in the future. After we heard how the programs were operated in Latin America by María Fernanda Mendoza, International Consultant and former General Manager, Mexican Center for the Protection and Promotion of Authors' Rights, Mette Møller, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Authors Union, James Parker, Coordinator, International PLR Network, Arjen Polman, Head of Stichting Leenricht, The Netherlands and Paul Whitney, former City Librarian for the Vancouver Public Library.

Again, very interesting.

I didn't take a picture of my lunch as I was hungry and it was delicious. This was a terrific feat by the organizers, as usually dull bland meals are the order of the day when feeding hundreds. Attendees had their choice of vegetarian, tuna, beef or turkey. I had a turkey sandwich which was on marble bread with a tasty pasta salad and a desert, which I skipped (got to keep those pounds coming off).

My first after lunch session was First Page Challenge: Getting to Page Two (Adult Fiction).

First Page Challenge is a fun, interactive event where a panel of judges will share their on-the-spot expertise in a high-energy environment. Participants submit the first page of a novel or short story piece in the Adult Fiction category. These texts will be viewed anonymously on an overhead display while the judges give their impressions of strengths and weaknesses as it is being read aloud. This is a risk-free chance to see why editors put down manuscripts and why they read on, what agents look for in a potential client’s work, and what creative instructors really like.

The moderator would read the first page of a submission that would be critiqued by three editors. Some minor points would be made but it was fascinating to see how moving entire paragraphs around could vastly improve a work.

These tents were full of smaller seminars. It was a hot day but the shade of the tents and the cool breeze coming off the harbour made attending these very comfortable.

I enjoy science fiction and Robert J Sawyer is one of my favorite authors. Robert is one of only eight writers in history (and the only Canadian) to win all three of the science-fiction field's top honors for best novel of the year, the Hugo, the Nebula Award and the John W. Campbell Memorial Award.

Robert did a session on Diversifying Your Income.  He was introduced by Matthew Bin, past president of the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Authors Association.

Robert spoke of how writers can make extra money by giving talks, being keynote speakers and writing articles for magazines and other publications. He also cautioned on how not to be underpaid for any of these services. He is quite successful in these endeavors, especially in the area of speaking.

He's not one to stand still and was continually on the move and is a fabulous speaker. If you ever have an opportunity to see him, go!

My final session after a long day was What You Know: The Pleasure and Pain of Research.

Internationally acclaimed authors Marina Endicott, Greg Hollingshead and Nino Ricci join moderator Alissa York to discuss the role research plays in their work and in their lives. Through their fictional creations, these writers have explored territories as diverse as London in the aftermath of the French Revolution, Galilee during the lifetime of Jesus, that other Wild West known as Vaudeville, and 17th Century Native North America. Find out why they’re drawn to stories that lead them far beyond the bounds of “what you know,” and by what method (and/or madness) they make those stories their own.

Again, this was quite interesting to learn how the did their research, how long it took them (you research until you hear their voices), the value of visiting the historic places they are writing about and the importance of speaking to experts in the field ("I don't like talking to people, which is why I'm a writer", brought lots of laughs).

I had a fabulous day but some small criticisms. This is the first year and there will be some things to iron out for the next one.

One was that a session I wanted to attend, The Role of the Author in the Promotion of his/her Works, was entirely in French. If we were in Quebec I could see it but we are in Toronto. I used a translator for an earlier session and they were not available for this session.

The other would be the overlap of programs. Some would be an hour long and others an hour and fifteen minutes, which meant one had to choose whether they wanted to miss the end of one or the beginning of another. Also, kudos for all the sessions starting on time but when one ends at 2pm and the next one a person wants to attend  is in a different area and starts at 2pm, they are going to be late.

To solve this all programs should be an hour long with ten to fifteen minutes in between to get from one place to another, go to the bathroom or grab a water or coffee.

Still, all the volunteers were fabulous, everybody was very friendly, the programs well done and I came away with information overload.

I hope this proves to be a success and there is another again next year. I will surely attend.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Lakeside Play Readings at Harbourfront

This weekend is the very first Canadian Writers Summit. I am attending tomorrow, and tonight they hosted what they called The Lakeside Readings. It sounded like a good idea so I was there.

Playwrights Guild of Canada, in partnerships with Coach House Books, Playwrights Canada Press, Talonbooks, and Scirocco Drama, presents eight readings by some of Canada’s most well known playwrights. Catch a glimpse of theatre behind the curtain as playwrights read their own words. Hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar are available.

David S Craig of the Playwrights Guild of Canada was the host for the evening..

The first playwright was Nicolas Billon. He has written many works, had his play, The Elephant Song, turned into a movie, and won the 2013 Governor General's Award for Drama for Fault Lines. He read a monologue from his play, Greenland. After hearing the short reading, it's now a play I would love to see.

Next up was Lois Fine who had a long run with her play, Freda and Jem’s Best of the Week, which had a long run at Buddy in Bad Times Theater. She read from different parts of the play and in her short reading, I felt I already knew the main characters.

Kenneth T. Williams, a Cree playwright from Saskatoon, was up next.  He read from his play, Gordon Winter, which was so very powerful. This is a play that I think I would really enjoy.

Kenneth was followed by Annabel Soutar. In 2012, Annabel was commissioned to write a new documentary play about fresh water for the 2015 Toronto Pan American/Para Pan American Games cultural program, Panamania. She came out with The Watershed, which premiered at the Berkeley Street Theatre during the games. She read from that play and did a great job. I wish I had gone and seen it when it was on.

Pamela Mala Sinha was on after Annabel. In 2012, she won two Dora Awards  for best new play and leading actress for Crash. She read from that play tonight. It was powerful, not a play I would go see, but I would love to go see some other works of hers.

Donna-Michelle St. Bernard has many talents. She creates play, acts and is a lead vocalist in the folk/funk/hip hop trio ergo sum.She is determined to write a play about every African nation. Quite the task! Tonight she read from A Man A Fish and a play in development about Tunisia. I would love to see A Man A Fish. She was very entertaining.

The last playwright was Morris Panych, who in his career has won four Dora awards and two Governor General’s awards for The Ends of the Earth (1994) and Girl in the Goldfish Bowl (2004). He was absolutely hilarious. He read from two works, one that has been done and another in production, I didn't get the name of the play that has been done.  It was a great way to finish the night. I was in tears and would go see anything of his in a second.

I have never been to a reading before, but next time I hear of one, I will want to go.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Night at Sessions #7, Yonge and Dundas Square

Tonight was Sessions # 7. This year it was held again at Yonge and Dundas Square. Teena and I have been to all seven, starting with the original one at Sunnyside Pavilion. It is one of our favorite festivals of the year.

We always buy the Princess passes, as we get to sit in a private area with chairs (there is very little seating areas on the outside), a private bathroom, almost worth the price of admission, and catered food. The past few years have been very disappointing in that area, but still the Princess passes were worth it.

I started with an APA from Sextant Craft Brewing, which I really enjoyed.

Next I paid a visit to Elora Brewing. I love the town and want to go back again and stop into this brewery. I had a Lady Friendly IPA. It was citrusy and nice.

Black Oak Brewing had a Collaboration beer with Sam Cash & the Romantic Dogs as part of the collaboration contest Sessions holds, which was a citrus extra pale ale which I really enjoyed.

Bad Luck Woman and Her Misfortunes were the musical entertainment and were awesome. Drawing inspiration from the feistiest female singers of the 30s, 40s and 50s, Bad Luck Woman and Her Misfortunes bring you sassy, greasy blues tunes.

Our office is close to the 3 Brewers location on Adelaide and I go there often. I was given a whistle, a coupon for a free Flammekueche, which I just love, plus I got an Iron Tao Tea Saison. I loved it!

The Off the Leash IPA was enjoyable from High Park Brewery.

There was a stack board game that was played by many that passed by. It was fun to watch.

It was quite crowded at the end and those without the Princess passes had very little places to sit. I'm glad we bought them.

I forgot to record what I had from Red Line Brewery in Barrie. I do remember I liked it and that's not just lip service.

My friend, Darlene, love the collaboration beer from Big Rig Brewery, which was a Hefeweizen. I liked it.

My favorite of the night came at the end. It was a collaboration beer between Oast House Brewery and a brewery from the Netherlands. It is a Netherlands beer style I have never heard of called a Koyt. Apparently it is due out in the LCBO later this year and I am looking forward to it. After having many samples, I still found this beer to be wonderfully complex. Well done!

It was a fun night as always. The first year we had Princess passes, the food was more plentiful and the past two years, we were up in the shade on the stage. The passes are a lot extra and although you get many more beer tokens, the extras are what push it over the top.

Still, I am looking forward to next years event and would not hesitate to get the Princess pass again.