Books Reviewed: by Wendell Berry & Lazar Puhalo

Two books by two men from vastly different backgrounds, though still grounded in Christian tradition, tackle the meaning of society and what it means to live side by side with one another through a collection of their essays.

Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community
by Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry is a giant thinker and wildly counter-cultural. He is a farmer in Kentucky, but he is highly regarded by organizations such as Stanford University, Rockefeller  & Guggenheim Foundations, etc. What is lovely about Mr. Berry is that he is living out what he is advocating for in regards to community life, local economies, participating in the restoration of creation, and political activism. Most of all, he is a passionate Christian.

In one chapter, Berry systematically tears down all of the arguments that George Bush Sr. had for attacking Iraq in the early 90s. In another he defends the harvest of tobacco - a coy poke at modern liberalism, though not insincere on the tobacco side either. Another chapter is almost pure satire on the topic of globalization, militarism, and technological progress. Elsewhere he harshly attacks the notion of free trade. These were enjoyable reads, but the real meat in the book were the ones directly addressing the affirmatives in how he believes people made in the image of God ought to live.

Berry is best when he points out nuanced, and sometimes drastically unbalanced, ways we see the world - creation. He points out that a word like environment "is a typical product of old dualism that is at the root of most of our ecological destructiveness." What's the big deal? Well, it removes local responsibility and care. The term "environment" is sterile, like "ecosystem," it is just a scientific concept rather than a reality of the actual ground in our literal back yard or nearby forest or the field that is ploughed in our neighbourhood.

Berry's treatise on heaven and earth is particularly refreshing. Heaven is the New Earth - a fully restored, functioning earth right where we already are. How should this inform a Christian's actions in local economies? He reignites the concept of dualism and how it has destroyed our ability to truly engage restorative actions in our current life since we believe the spiritual soul is certainly of more import than the decrepit body. It isn't
person = body + soul
rather, it is
soul = body + breath of life
Recognizing that the physical realities are indeed spiritually significant changes all paradigms.

Culture, Commonweal and Personhood
by Lazar Puhalo

As I reported earlier, I had the great privilege of meeting Archbishop Puhalo this past summer. To hear him state his qualifications, you would think he is an astrophysics lecturer at the Sorbonne with a part time neurobiology post at UBC. In reality, he is a highly educated, highly respected clergyman who has been able to take part in countless public dialogues with great scientists on the issue of science and faith. He lives at the Monastery of All Saints outside of Abbotsford, BC where he continues in his retirement to serve as a local bishop in the small chapel there as well as the official liaison between the Archdiocese of Canada and the Government of Canada.

This book takes several of its essays from actual talks Puhalo delivered at various conferences in Romania within the last 10 years. He talks through how science is poorly understood and viewed without a patristic understanding of Christian theology. He lays out the pros and cons of ecumenical dialogues. The idea of personalism is analyzed thoroughly in its historical evolution and its contrast with Orthodox principles.

In general though, it is societal, religious, and philosophical paradigms that are defined, shown insufficient, and revealed how they are incompatible with Christian thought. Though the text is very dense, I was able to follow Puhalo's organized stream of consciousness, and learn a few things in the process. I was both affirmed and challenged.


Tool Shed Brewery & Beer for Life

A year ago, I tried my first Tool Shed beers: Star Cheek IPA, Red Rage Ale, and People Skills Cream Ale. I was immediately enamoured with the Star Cheek IPA which was a far more local, affordable, and high quality IPA compared to the west coast American IPAs I have learned to appreciate.

Graham and Jeff started out as home brewers and decided to take the plunge and start a brewery. They had to begin brewing in BC by renting Dead Frog's brewery because of the archaic brewing laws in Alberta. This year, the laws changed and they secured a spot in NE Calgary and have built a magnificent brewery.

To help raise capital and extend their appreciation to their original backers, they offer 100 Golden Growlers: Beer for life for $5,000. If you're interested in the terms of the agreement, you can contact them. Graham responded very quickly to my clarifying questions and invited me to come and meet him to chat about it.

The beer maxes out to 200L each year. They are happy to provide the beer in growlers, cans, kegs, etc. You can have several people attached to a single Golden Growler subscription and each will be able to access the benefits (sharing the 200L - about 600 beer - of course). Another benefit is exclusive access to test batches.

So, on October 23, Amber and I went on a date to visit the new brewery and get a tour by Jeff. He spent 45 minutes with us showing us the new digs and telling us about the plans. They had brewed their first batch that day, but he was happy to take the time. I signed up and handed over the money that would give me and 2 friends the benefit of beer for life.

The 100 Golden Growler members' photos will be featured on a wall. Each will be given a special 1.89 L growler and be invited to exclusive events. I'm excited for the first one where we will get to try the test batch of the Eggnog Milk Stout.

Brew Six-B: In Flanders Fields Red Ale

The second of the two batches I brewed on November 10 was a Flanders Red Ale. The primary flavour profile of this type of beer is the yeast, but the grain selection adds a whole lot to the mouthfeel, colour, and aroma.

I didn't have a heatstick to raise temperatures, so I had to add hot water at different intervals to do the job. I used the very helpful calculators at Brewer's Friend to help with the water volumes and temperatures. I got all my ingredients at The Vineyard.

The recipe I found led me through this:
MASH30 min @ 50˚C; 50 min @ 68˚C; 10 min @ 75.5˚C5.25 lbs Canadian Superior Pilsen (1.4-1.9˚L)
5.25 lbs Vienna Malt (3-5˚L)
1 lb Munich (6-10˚L)
0.5 lb Wheat (1.5-2.5˚L)
0.5 lb CaraRed (15.6-19.3˚L)
0.5 lb Special Aromatic (3.5-5˚L)
0.5 lb Caramel Munich (120˚L)
BOIL90 min
1 oz East Kent Goldings (5.8% alpha) - 60 min
WLP008 East Coast Ale Yeast (initial fermentation)
WLP655 Belgian Sour Mix (second fermentation 6 days later)
22 Litres; 24 IBU; Original Gravity 1.050 (potential of 6.4% ABV)

This is a lengthy process. I will let this one ferment for 6 months to allow for the flavour to max out and allow the beautiful mix of bacteria to do its job on the beer. It is supposed to be a sour beer which I think works with the name I've chosen. Even the brew date works!

The reason I chose to make a Flanders Red is because of my enjoyment of the expensive and delicious Duchess of Bourgogne.

Brew Six-A: Czar's Imperial Stout

In preparation for the two brews I did (check out Brew Six-B), I read up on advanced brewing in my handbook: The Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papazian. I have the 2nd edition (1991); the fourth came out this year. In it I gained a much deeper understanding of what happens during the mash and the boil.

In the mash (the process with hot water and grains), the starches from the malted grains are turned into sugars with the help of enzymes. Not all malted grains have the enzymes required - these are called adjunct grains. It's important not to have too many of these as not much sugar will appear in the wort (sugar water). Various grains bring different flavours and colours to the beer. The flavours often happen via the way the barley, wheat, oats, rice, etc. are malted - this is where all the names for the barley come from (2-row, crystal, chocolate, munich, black, etc.).

Each grain contributes to the colour of the beer. The darkness of the malt is expressed in ˚L or SRM (Standard Reference Method). I was so surprised at how dark my wort came out with only 2.25 lbs of really dark malt of 17.25 lbs of grain.

Hops are way more complicated. Primarily, they are used in bittering the wort - helping to remedy the sweetness of beer. The more malt (sugar), the more hops are needed. In this recipe, I have extracted an enormous amount of malt, so I have to use some hops with high alpha acids. The longer you boil them, the more the acids attach to the malt.

Then there are the hop oils. The oils dissipate very quickly in the boil, but the hops need to be boiled in order to extract them. To get these oils, hops are added at the very end of the boil for 1-5 minutes. The hop oils are what contribute to hoppy aroma and flavour.

The amount of hops used, the amount of acid and the amount of time they are in the boil determines the IBU or International Bitterness Units of the beer. High IBU doesn't necessarily mean the beer will be bitter, but it usually does. In the case of imperial stouts, a high IBU is needed to keep the malt in check.

One of the other new methods I got to try out was the cooling coil. If a brew is not cooled quickly after a boil, it can be infected with wild yeasts and bacteria which can impact the flavour of the beer. The coil is hooked up to a cold water source (ice water bucket with a pump or in my case, an outdoor tap). The water circulates through the wort in the copper pipe and emerges piping hot. It took about 20 minutes to bring the temperature down to 22˚C. It didn't hurt that it was outside in -20˚C weather.

30 min @ 52˚C; 30 min @ 70˚C; 10 min @ 75˚C14 lbs Canadian 2-Row (2˚L)
1 lb Crystal Medium (45˚L)
1 lb Roasted Barley (300˚L)
0.75 lb Black Malt (500˚L)
0.5 lb Chocolate Malt (350˚L)
BOIL 90 min
60 min 1 oz Northern Brewer 8.6% alpha
30 min 1 oz East Kent Goldings 5.8% alpha
30 min 0.5 oz Fuggles 5% alpha
20 min 1 oz Fuggles
2 min 0.5 oz Fuggles
Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale @ 22˚C

23 Litres; 56 IBU; Original Gravity 1.073 (potential of 9.4% ABV)

I am very excited about this brew. It should be packed with flavour and punch. Incidentally, the term imperial is interchangeable with double - so it's a stout that is twice as strong. It's called imperial because the Brits would brew this strong stuff and export it to the czars in Russia.

Brew Five: Winter Ale & Anne's IPA

Brewing an all-grain beer is so much more work than picking up a beer kit. So, the beer had better be that much better! I was commissioned to brew 2 batches of beer for my friend Anne. The first was brewed back in June, a hefeweizen which ended up getting contaminated with lactobacillus and having a sour flavour. I brewed the second, an IPA along with a spiced winter ale on this occasion in July.

I borrowed my friend Alex's gear again: modified cooler with a copper manifold in the base which filters the sparge from the mash, thermometer, heat stick, and a turkey fryer for the boil. I set everything up in the back yard with the help of the kids picnic table.

I searched both recipes out online and modified slightly to my purposes. Here they are:
Anne's I Pee Eh (Chainbreaker White IPA Clone)
MASH (90 min)15 L Water (65-68˚C)
6 lbs Canadian Superior Pilsen (1.4-1.9°L)
2 lbs Wheat (1.5-2.5°L)
1 lb Toasted Wheat (425°L)
1 lb Crystal Medium (75°L)
BOIL (60 min)60 min - 1 oz Warrior Hops (13.7% alpha)
5 min - 1/3 oz Sweet Orange Peel; 1.5 tsp Coriander Seed; 0.5 oz Falconer's Flight Hops (10.5% alpha)
1 min - 1.5 oz Falconer's Flight; 0.5 oz Cascade Hops (5% alpha)
0.5 lb Wheat Dry Malt Extract
PITCHWyeast 1332 (Northwest Ale)
Original Gravity: 1.047
Final Gravity (30 days later): 1.006
ABV: 5.4%

Winter Ale (Sciukas All Night Long)
MASH (90 min)15 L Water (63-66˚C)
10 lbs Canadian 2-Row (2°L)
2 lbs Light Crystal Malt (45°L)
Sparge: 16L 67˚C (it should have been 75.5˚C to mash out)
BOIL (60 min)
60 min - 1.5 oz Cascade Hops (5% alpha)
6 min - 2/3 oz Sweet Orange Peel; 1 oz Ginger Root; 2 Cinnamon Sticks; 1 oz Caraway Seed; 0.2 oz Whole Clove
3 min - 1 oz Tetinang Hops (4.9% alpha)
1 lb Honey
Wyeast 1388 (Belgian Strong Ale)

Original Gravity: 1.052
Final Gravity (30 days later): 1.001
ABV: 6.7%

The entire process for two 5-gallon batches - cleaning, heating water, racking, bringing to boil, racking, cooling, cleaning - took 5 hours. I had to take my son to the dentist in the early afternoon and help make supper, so I started early in the morning.

Both brews turned out quite well. I have several litres of the winter ale ready for Christmas holidays and I have been enjoying some in the fall too. Now that I have read about the chemistry and enzyme reactions that occur during the mash, I think I could have made even better beer had I played with a few different temperatures and stuck with very light SRM grains for the IPA to give it a lighter colour and taste.


Sukkōt: The Feast of Tabernacles

On October 9 we celebrated Sukkōt, a biblical feast commemorating the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness. My father and his wife have been observing what are traditionally Jewish holy days for a few years now. They were visiting us in Calgary when the Feast of Tabernacles began so my father rigged up a temporary tabernacle or booth or tent in the back yard and his wife prepared a terrific feast for our entire household.

You could say that Christians are living in the wilderness now - the time between the exodus (freedom) and promised land (fulfilment of the promise of the new earth). Setting aside time each year to remember this was God's intent for His people.

We feasted on kabobs, pumpkin hummus, olives, tabouli, grapes and wine.

While it cooled down substantially at sunset, we hung out for another and enjoyed more wine and laughter.


Touring Victoria, BC

Flew into Victoria Int'l on Friday night after a delayed connection in Vancouver due to fog. The flight from Van was only 13 minutes. The delay was over an hour. I walked off the plane into a light mist and then to the bus stop where the bus rolls by once per hour. I had called transit and learned the bus would depart 20 minutes after arrival. While the shuttles were filling up, I sat alone on little bus. It was a 6 minute ride to the exchange just off the highway where I waited for the 70X which goes between the ferry docks of Schwartz Bay and downtown Victoria (a 30 minute drive (or 60 minute bus ride). 70X was a little late, but I didn't care! It was a double-decker bus and there was a free seat on the upper deck. Too Cool. I got off 2 blocks from my hostel, Ocean Island Backpackers Hostel.

I arrived too late to eat at a restaurant, so I enjoyed a delicious curry bowl at the Ocean Island Cafe. I slept on a bunkbed in a dormitory and only met a couple German girls who are travelling the west coast. The other guests came in after I was sleeping and were still sleeping when I left in the morning.

As I was there for the marathon, I went for a quick 3 km run through downtown and along the shore. I watched harbour light up and absorbed the cool air. It took me right back to living in the Marshall Islands.

A quick shower and check-out/check-in to the room Marc and I shared and I was off in a light drizzle to Discovery Coffee, six blocks away. I ordered a couple baked goods and a light roast espresso which was stellar! So stellar that I ordered another.

I read by book, Culture, Commonweal and Personhood by Lazar Puhalo (just across the water), whilst taking in the coffee, cafe aromas, groovy tunes, and the torrents of rain outside. I ordered a third coffee - a pour over light roast. So yummy.

I met up with Marc at Ocean Island and we picked up our marathon package at the fitness fair. Then we were ready to carb up. I picked Swan's Brewpub and had a flight with Riley's Scotch Ale, SOS Oatmeal Stout, IPA, and Coconut Porter. Oh and a big plate of eggs, sausages, bacon and pancakes. Marc and I chatted about religion.

Marc went to visit an aunt and uncle, so I went for a walkabout in the north-central part of downtown initially hoping to sample some Phillips beer at their brewery, but it was pretty crowded with folks filling growlers and I had already tried the ones they had on tap, so I just had a look around. Most impressive was Phillips yard of fermenters and kegs ready to ship.

There was a nice furniture store and a Value Village that drew me in for a while. I browsed VV's book section and formed a nice collection of books that I had no choice but to re-shelve and leave behind. I enjoyed some edamame (so many I couldn't finish) and a giant veggie burrito at Ocean Island along with a pint of Blue Buck before heading to the theatre to see Gone Girl - which was spectacular.

Before heading to bed I laid out my marathon gear and packed up everything else. The hostel was pretty loud through the night, but I had earplugs.


Marathon III: Victoria, BC

Following my second marathon on June 1, I barely ran at all. I wasn't trying to avoid running, it's just that there was no time or urgency. I had moved; I was wrapping up a very difficult year of teaching; I was enjoying my summer holidays. I was content not running. However by mid-August, I was ready to jump back into the habit of running. I signed up for the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon and bought my plane ticket. I had 8 weeks to train, but was already mostly conditioned, so I dove into the last 8 weeks of a 14 week regime.

My friend Marc is poised to run the marathon too. It is his first, so he is nervous. I am stoked. My running pace has improved so much in the last 8 weeks over my spring running that it is a real possibility that I will achieve my sub-4 hour goal.

Waking up early Marc and I force feed ourselves energy bars, bananas, water, and a bagel. Nipple band-aids are applied. We walk down to the legislature building from our hostel with another runner who is running her third marathon too. We drop our bag with sweater/extra gear at the bag check and get into our pace groups. I'm with the 4-hr gang, but bow to retie my shoes at the last minute and fall behind a little as the start gun sounds.

The mass start isn't nearly as bad as in Calgary and I catch my group and then the 3:45 pace sign and I pass him and maintain a lead on the this group until km 25. Our first 10 kms take us through the upper city on Johnson St and then downhill through loops in Beacon Hill Park. As I leave the park, I hear a man cheer from his balcony, "Go Hulk Hogan!" I chuckle. Then realize he is talking about me because of my yellow bandana. Then I laugh.

I run past the first gel table and exclaim when I realize I've missed it. A fellow runner gives me one of his. He had grabbed 2.

Victoria is a small city, so the groups cheering are small and spread out through the course. It is still encouraging to see the familiar signs of encouragement. The route takes us along the coast and back again with little intervals into residential streets and the beautiful Oak Bay. I spot the marathon winner who finishes 90 minutes before I do as he runs by going in the opposite direction. He's flying. The turn around point is at 23 km and I keep my eyes peeled for Marc who is a couple kms behind me. We high five.

I am carrying my phone with Runkeeper on. While training, the app makes announcements every 5 minutes like:
"Time: 55 minutes. Distance: 10.34 km. Average Pace: 5 minutes 19 seconds per km."
This is really handy during training to help with keeping pace, but I do not want to annoy my fellow runners and I am interested in running on instinct, so I have the sound turned off. I can enjoy the resulting data after the race though. My paces end up looking like this:
0-10 km: 5:15 min/km
10-21.1 km: 5:23 min/km
21.1-30 km: 5:31 min/km
30-42.2 km: 5:51 min/km

The last 17 km take us runners back along the shore road intermittently. The cheering throngs are thinner now and running is more laboured. Cheering at this stage of the game is far less gratifying as the runners are not very responsive. I am surprised at a number of conversations that are happening in the 30s. I run alone ping ponging between about 40 runners. At one point I have 3 women running directly behind me. I quip "this reminds me a lot of high school." "Because the girls were chasing you?" "Yes."

I take my fourth energy gel at km 37. I pick up water and gatorade at each table and dump out half on the ground so I don't dump it all over myself. I gulp it all down - unlike the sipping I do in training. I note at km 39 that I never have to do this again. I have a feeling that I will get my sub-4 hour time, but I can't be too sure. I feel like I'm slowing down. I'm not completely discouraged, but I can't really feel the joy. I run past a walking firefighter in full gear who is doing the marathon in the name of someone.

By km 40, I am a different person. I feel the joy now. In fact, I'm sort of emotional the last 2.2 kms I strip my head of the bandana, headband and sunglasses. There are a couple little climbs and descents, but they are irrelevant. I'm floating. The crowds are starting to fill up now. There is energy everywhere, like static between the runners. We've made it. I can hear the announcer ahead. There are placards on the ground stating 800m left, 600 m left. They seem to accelerate.

Then the final corner and I can see the finish line and the timer ahead. I'm floored that the clock is reading 3:53. I'm way faster than my expected time. I sprint the final 300 m and I discover that I have so much strength. I let my head fall backwards and allow my legs to do everything.

The line is behind me. I respond that I'm fine after a medic asks when I stumble a bit when I slow to a walk. I bow and accept the medallion. A light fabric jacket is given to the runners so they don't freeze once our bodies cool. I enjoy orange slices and juice. I lay on the legislature lawn near the finish line. I check my chip time on my phone: 1:52:22. I cheer in runners until Marc crosses the line and we limp back to our hostel for showers and then food.