Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Hopeful

Hey remember that time I was despondent over Trump being elected and I sat “staring at an empty screen for a disconcertingly long time, trying to figure out what to write”. So I’ve been experiencing that again. There’s so many horrible things going on in the world right now that I don’t even know where to start to unpack it all. I suppose I can start with the US ban on Muslims entering the country – or should I say the ban on people from seven Muslim-majority countries where Trump doesn’t have business dealings? It’s thrown the lives of so many people into chaos, it’s racist, it’s xenophobic, and sadly, it’s something that Trump told everyone he’s going to do and lots of people voted for him anyway.

Then there was the terrorist attack on a mosque in Quebec City, where a far-right extremist white man opened fire and murdered six innocent men and injured many others. The accused in this attack (who I’ve just read probably cannot be charged with terrorism because he had no ties to an organization – even though it’s clearly an act of terrorism) was apparently speaking about the Muslim travel ban – and his belief that only white people should be allowed to immigrate to Canada and Quebec – the day before the attack.

Even closer to home for me, neo-Nazi posters were left near a local church and there was anti-Muslim graffiti written on the wall of the building directly across from mine.

And while there’s been so much chaos related to the US Muslim travel ban – both with it being unconstitutional and racist, and with it being implemented without warning so that the people expected to enforce it, and the people being affected by it, were blindsided – Trump’s slipped in a whole bunch of other actions, including looking at how to remove financial regulations1, delay the implementation of a law that would require financial professionals who advise people on their retirement savings to actually put their clients interests ahead of their own financial gain2, authorize the building of a wall along the US-Mexican border, banning federal funding to groups who provide abortions (or even talk about abortions, really)3, starting the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act, reinstating the Keystone pipeline, gagging scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency, and, in what might be the biggest oversimplification I’ve ever seen in my life, a rule that says for every regulation that a federal agency introduces, they have to get rid of two other regulations.

But there are some glimmers of hope. People are coming together to protest this bullshit, whether it’s the people who gathered in my city to protest the hate literature and demonstrate that the community will not put up with this, the vigils across Canada to show solidarity with the Muslim community in the wake of the terrorist attack in Quebec City, or the millions worldwide (including all seven continents) who participated in the Women’s March to protest Trump. Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General stood up to Trump, telling Department of Justice lawyers not to defend Trump’s Muslim ban law. She was fired for standing up for what is right, and the fact that she was willing to stand up for what is right is heartening. A March for Science is being planned for April 22 – Earth Day – to protest things like the gagging of scientists; denial of the overwhelming scientific evidence that supports that climate change is, in fact, a thing that exists; and the general shunning of science and facts; to celebrate and support science and the scientific community4.

So while there is a lot to be despondent about, I’m going to go to bed tonight thinking about all the good people coming together to support one another in these dark times. To quote the late, great Jack Layton: “”My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

  1. You may remember insufficient financial regulations being a major player in the financial crisis of 2007/08. Trump wants to disembowel the Dodd-Frank law, which was created to prevent that sort of thing from happening again. []
  2. I mean, heaven forbid that someone who seeks professional advice on their retirement savings would actually get advice that is the most useful to them! []
  3. And not just to prevent money going to these organizations to be used for provide abortion care, but to prevent any money at all going to these organizations for any of the other healthcare (or other) services they provide. []
  4. There has been a lot of talk about the intersection of science (and academia more broadly) and the Muslim travel ban. Academics have been debating if they should boycott conferences in the US, since those from the banned countries are denied the opportunity, or if conferences should relocate outside of the US so that people from the banned countries can attend (except that would mean that anyone from the banned countries who are currently in the US wouldn’t get to go because they wouldn’t be able to get back into the US afterwards. There is also talk of how scientific collaborations are being hampered by the travel ban, as some researchers aren’t able to travel to take part in collaborative work. []

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The Long and the Short of It

OK, this was from a while ago, but I found it amusing, so I took screenshots with the intent to blog about them and then got too busy to blog anything for months. To put this in perspective, back in October, the World Health Organization (WHO) caused a stir when they published a monograph linking processed and red meat to cancer. The media, as they often do, oversimplified what the report actually said and people went into a frenzy saying things like “meat is as bad as smoking” and then other people tried to explain what the evidence actually meant (which definitely is not that meat is as bad as smoking when it comes to cancer). If you are interested in reading a long and detailed description of all of this, check out this posting on Neurologica. But for a short (and even shorter version), check out these two postings which appeared back-to-back in my Facebook feed. The first one is in two screen shots, because it was pretty long (for a Facebook posting):

From Facebook

From Facebook

Which was then followed immediately by this one, which made me laugh:

From Facebook

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To Gum Graft or Not To Gum Graft?

ToothSo the verdict is in from my dental insurance company and they are not going to cover a gum graft because apparently they want my teeth to fall out. As I was pondering on The Twitter (and consequently The Facebook, since all my Twitters go to my The Facebook)about whether I shoulddrop $1400 out-of-pocket on this apparently painful procedure, a friend of mine suggested looking into something called the Pinhole Surgical Technique (PST), which is apparently a new alternative to gum grafts.

So I googled and found the website of the guy who invented the Pinhole Surgical Technique, which I learned involves making a hole in your gum, shifting the existing tissue around a bit, and inserting some collagen strips to promote the gums to grow some more collagen and then you end up with your gums being in the correct place. It’s less invasive (you don’t have to have tissue cut out of the roof of your mouth, have your gums cut to have that tissue put in there, and then have a bunch of stitches holding it all together.). The guy who invented it has been doing it since 2006 and published the procedure in a dentistry journal in 2012.

So my problem now is – how can I tell if this really is as good as it sounds? Obviously the inventor of this procedure is trying to sell it – both to clients (to create a market for it) and to other dental professionals (to pay him to train them). I don’t know anything about dentistry, so I don’t even know if the journal in which that study is published is really “one of the most respected journals in dentistry”, as stated on the PST website.

Through further googling, Ihave discovered that there are some people locally who do this procedure, so I suppose I could go to one of them for a consultation, but I feel like they are just going to say I should do it, since they will make a bunch of money if I do.

Does anyone know any good dental professionals that would be able to provide some unbiased advice on this?

Image Credit: Posted by Luke Siemens on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.

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Peak Centre Video

Hey, remember those times that I did fitness asssessments and found out that I have a respectable VO2max but I’m a wimp and getting wimpier? The place I did those assessments – the Peak Centre for Human Performance – recently shared this video from when they were on the morning news1 putting some newspeople through fitness assessments. So I thought I’d share this in case you were interested in seeing what it’s like2 ,3.

In related news, only 18 days until the Montreal demi-marathon!

  1. It was actually from spring 2014, but I hadn’t seen it before. []
  2. As per usual, I have no financial relationship with the company, other than when I pay them money for their services, of course! []
  3. The newslady is doing the VO2max and blood lactate assessment on the bike rather than running, but the basic idea is the same. []

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My Latest Fitness Assessment: Fitter, but More Wimpy

Last week I went back to the Peak Centre for Performance to do another running fitness assessment, as it was time to check in on the effects of my new training plan. Unlike my previous test, I didn’t need to measure my VO2max, so I didn’t have to wear the snorkel and breath through the tube. Which I thought meant that I’d be able to run a little bit more at the hardest level, as the last time I found it really difficult to gasp for breath through that snorkel. Boy was I wrong!

As you may recall from last time, I mentioned that people usually keep running to a blood lactate level of 8-10 mmol/L, whereas I gave up at 7.2 mmol/L, which means I am wimpier than average. This time, however, I gave up at a pathetic  5.69! Daniel’s interpretation of this is kinder than mine – he thinks that because I knew that I was running at a faster speed than I maxed out on my previous assessment, I gave up on the test too early, thinking that I couldn’t do any more than, rather than actually having quite because I was too wimpy to take anymore. There might be some truth to that – perhaps next time I should try to ignore what speed I’m running at during the test and focus just on how my body feels. Or maybe I should run until I literally fall off the treadmill!

At any rate, the positive news from this assessment is that my zone 1 training has paid off big time, as I’ve significantly shifted my lactate curve. Here’s the graph of my second assessment.

2015-08-06 Fitness Assessment Results

Then I plotted the data from both assessments on the same graph so that we can compare them:

2015-08-06 Running Assessment compared to first assessment

On this graph, the blue and green lines represent my heart rate results from assessment #1 and assessment #2, respectively, across the different speeds (with speed on the x-axis). As you can see, the heart rate results are virtually identical. The red line represents my blood lactate levels across the different speeds for assessment #1 and the purple line represents my blood lactate levels across the different speeds for assessment #2. As you can see, my blood lactate is lower at each speed throughout the assessment, which is exactly what zone 1 training is meant to do. In zone 1 training, you run at a relatively low level of exertion , a level that would allow you to run all day long. This trains your body to be able to run at faster speeds without producing as much lactate, which means you can run faster for a longer period of time.

On the down side, while I was diligent with my zone 1 training and significantly improved my aerobic threshold, I was a delinquent when it came to my intensity workouts and it showed in the results of my training. This next graphic shows my lactate and aerobic thresholds compare to the limits for these thresholds:

2015-08-06 Fitness Assessment Results - LimitsWhat this graphic shows is that my aerobic threshold occurs at 81% of my speed at VO2max and my lactate threshold occurs at 94% of my speed at VO2max – and I’m basically at the limits. This means that if I continue to just do zone 1 training, I won’t continue to see improvements, because you can’t push your aerobic threshold higher than 80-85% of your max. The only way to improve from here is to increase my max speed, which means that I have to do my intensity workouts. Normally, this would mean doing zone 5 workouts – essentially, running for as fast as you can around a lap of the track, giving yourself a rest, and then repeating that until you can no longer maintain that max speed. But given that my next half marathon is only just over a month away – and I’ll need to taper for the last couple of weeks leading up to it – Lewis suggested that until my race, I should do a zone 3 workout once per week (basically, running at my zone 3 pace, which is where my muscles start to build up lactate, for as long as I can (working my way up to 30 minutes over the next few weeks if possible) in order that I build up my tolerance for lactate (i.e., suck it up buttercup!). I’m also adding some “race pace” to end of my long runs – which I really should have been doing a while ago, but I was discouraged by the fact that my target race pace was in my zone 3 range of my previous assessment and so I just kind of ignored that I was supposed to be doing it at the end of my long runs!

So – will I reach my sub-2 hr half marathon goal in Montreal? Who knows. I might have a spectacular race day and pull it off. I might have screwed myself over by not training to build my max speed and build up my lactate tolerance up until now and now I don’t have enough time to fix it. Only time will tell. But as with my last half marathon, I’m setting a series of staged goals – so even if I don’t make my sub-2 hr goal, I’ll still have some backups to aim for:

  1. a sub-2 hour half marathon
  2. finish my first ever half marathon where I run straight through, with no 10 and 1s – I’ve done 12 half marathons and for all 12 of them I’ve done 10 and 1s (run for 10 minutes, walk for 1 minute, and repeat). This training is the first time I’ve been training on this new system where I run in zone 1, so I don’t need those 1 minute walk breaks. Each week when I do a long run I think “That’s the longest I’ve ever run straight through without walk breaks!” So doing that for an entire 21.1 km will be an accomplishment!
  3. finish – Finishing a half marathon is always worth being proud of.

So, there you have it – I’ve scienced up my running and am now motivated to go out and do my zone 3 runs from now until race day! Wish me luck!

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The Time in Nye! #BillBillBill

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When I was a kid, I loved Bill Nye the Science Guy. Oh wait, I just looked up when that show actually aired, so let me re-phrase: When I was a teenager, I loved Bill Nye the Science Guy. I had already decided by that point that I was going to be a scientist, so how could I not love a show full of science-y facts and experiment you can try at home and silly science jokes?

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and I still love Bill Nye the Science Guy. He’s a promoter of science, skepticism, and rationality. And he’s the only man who, in my humble opinion, can actually pull off wearing a bowtie.So when I heard there was Kickstarter going on to fund a documentary about his life, how could I not take part?

Personally, I chose to donate at the level that would get my name in the credits and a bowtie for your dog… or in my case, cat1. I also get a Bill Nye Frisbee because science.

Perhaps you would also like your name in the credits? Or to get a bowtie for your dog, cat, rabbit,lizard, or other similar sized animal? Or one of the many other cool rewards one gets for kickstarting this awesome film? Well, you only have 29 hours to go (as of the time at which I’m writing this posting!) to do so! Just go to Kickstarter and give them all your money! Or, like $50. Whatevs2.

You can also follow along with them at:

Image Credit:

Footnotes:

  1. Watson & Crick will have to share the bowtie. []
  2. It’s the most funded documentary in the history of Kickstarter, but I’m sure they could use a few more bucks, asmaking movies isn’t cheap! []

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Beer – Now In Soap Form!

Hey, remember that time that I made a bunch of suboptimally carbonated beer? Well, I happened to tell my friend Susan about that. And the thing is, Susan owns a soap making company. And one of the types of soaps that she makes is beer soap. And to make beer soap you need, apparently, uncarbonated beer!

I’m sure you can see where this is going!

Beer soapSo I gave Susan some uncarbonated beer and she scienced it into soap!

It smells heavenly – sort of like a sweet bread, with a hint of orange (as she included orange essential oils in it). I have a bar of it in my shower and it’s quite lovely!

Check out Susan’s company, A Little Soapy Business. She sells all kinds of soaps and skin care products1.

  1. As per usual, I have not received anything to promote Susan’s business. We did an old school bartering deal – I gave her beer in exchange for a few bars of soap! []

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My Fitness Assessment

Last  Friday after work, I headed to the Peak Centre for Human Performance ((As per usual, I haven’t received any form of compensation for writing about this company. I paid for my fitness assessment and just thought it was pretty cool and wanted to share!)) for my first ever fitness assessment!

Since I’ve never done a fitness assessment before, I did the full meal deal: VO2max, blood lactate, and energy usage. The test involves running on a treadmill and, every three minutes, the speed of the treadmill is increased until you can’t run anymore. While this is going on, you are breathing through a snorkel attached to a tube that is attached to a machine that measures how much oxygen is in the air you are breathing in and out; as well, blood samples are taken through pricking your finger.

VO2max test

Me running my VO2max test

VO2max is a measure of the maximal rate of oxygen consumption as you exercise until the point that you can’t go anymore and it’s a measure of your aerobic (i.e., oxygen-using) physical fitness. Blood lactate analysis involves tracking your increasing blood lactate levels as you run faster and faster and the graph of your blood lactate levels shows you how your body responds to the increasing exercise. You can use this information to determine the optimal intensity at which you should train in order to improve performance.

Computer with fitness data

The computer that was crunching all my fitness-y data

As you know, I’m not really a fan of treadmills, as I generally find them rather boring. But in this case, there was enough going on, what with trying to focus on running form (and, as things got faster, trying to focus running as hard as I could and not barfing), plus having to have a blood sample taken every three minutes, plus trying not to hyperventilate because I was breathing in a tube, that the treadmill part was actually OK. And the first three of 3-minute segments, which I ran at 7 km/hr, 8 km/hr, and 9 km/hr, respectively, went along quite smoothly. At the fourth segment, however, I could feel my breathing getting laboured and by the end of the fourth segment was starting to wonder how much more I could really last. When Paul, the guy running my test, said “You are already a minute into this one!” during my fifth segment, which I was running at 11 km/hr, I thought I was going to die because it had been thinking immediately before that “just hold out a few more seconds, I’m sure it’s almost been three minutes!” But I managed to push on, seriously thinking that I was going to barf into my snorkel and/or my lungs were going to explode. Paul took my blood sample and then asked if I was reading to go to the next speed and I just couldn’t do it. So that brought the test to an end and I was able to take off the snorkel and then gasp for breath like a dying woman, and then do a short cool down jog. After a few minutes, however, I felt so much better that all I could think was “Why did I stop? I totally feel like I can run just fine now! I’m such a wimp!”

But when I got my results emailed, I saw why I stopped:

2015-05-22 Fitness Assessment Results

The red line in the chart above is my heart rate, which you see rises pretty much linearly as my running speed rising. The blue line is my blood lactate concentration, which you see rises exponentially as my speed increases.

In retrospect, I do wish I had had it in me to run even 5 seconds at the next speed because it would have given me one more datum1 on my graph! And you know how I loves me more data!

The other important piece of information from my results is my VO2max, which clocked in at 41.6 mL/kg/min. Of course, I couldn’t remember for the life of me what a good value for VO2max is2. According to this random page on the Internets, my VO2max is “superior”3. In fact, it would still be classified as “superior” even if I were in my 20s, and it would be at the high end of “excellent” if I were in my teens! This all makes me feel very happy and making having all those finger pricks and feeling like I was going to die worthwhile!

The report I received also provides me with some guidance on the heart rate level/pace at which I should run my long slow distance runs vs. my speed work and suggest that I should focus on the aerobic training (85-90% of my running) with a bit (10-15%) of intense training. I have a consultation next Tuesday where we will go over my results and plan out my training run so that I can kick some serious butt at the demi-marathon in Montreal! I’m very excited for that!

  1. Datum = the singular of data. You really don’t get to use that word very often, so I’m chuffed to have a chance to use it. See also: “chuffed”. []
  2. I mean, I know I learned about it in undergrad, but I haven’t the foggiest what a good value would be. []
  3. Another random page on the Internets which uses different age cutoffs and has different values in its categories says that I’m merely “good” (which they consider as the category that is above “above average”. So I’m totally going with the other site! []

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Mindfulness

Remember that time I said I was going to focus on mindfulness and then promptly forgot about having said that?  Well, fast forward more than a year and I saw an article in the newsletter at work about how they were looking for participants for a study on if mindfulness-based stress reduction affects well-being and ability of people in healthcare to do their jobs. Basically, you get free mindfulness classes for two months1 and fill out some surveys along the way, plus a work colleague fills out some surveys about you too. Since I’ve been interested in learning more about mindfulness (not to mention that I love of being a research guinea pig and getting stuff for free), I signed up. When I received the research consent form, I discovered that the principal investigator for the study is one of my favourite profs from b-school!

I first learned about the concept of mindfulness – if not the name – when I read the book Intuitive Eating, which takes the concept of mindfulness to the practice of putting food in your face. I’m much better about being mindful when it comes to eating and in a few other parts of life, but there are some times when I’m as far from mindful as you can get. I’m a fast walker and often find that I’ve gone from point A to point B without noticing a single thing along the way. I’m very goal-oriented – which I think overall is a great thing, but sometimes can lead to spending a lot of time thinking about the future at the expense of experiencing and appreciating the present. And I’m notoriously bad at remembering names – I’ll forgot the name of the person I’ve just been introduced to before the introduction is even over!

So, on Monday night, I had my first of eight classes on mindfulness. We learned a bit about the concept and did a couple of practices. First, we ate a raisin mindfully. It was an interesting experience – spending time feeling the texture, smelling the raisin, listening to the sound of it as you roll it between your fingers. And then, of course, the taste – so much flavour when you actually pay attention! Of course, you couldn’t eat like that all the time – it took us about 5 minutes to eat a single raisin, but it was a reminder that though I am more mindful when I eat than I used to be, I could still be a lot more mindful than I am.

Our second was a body scan – we spent about half an hour focused on breathing and paying attention close attention to each body part in turn. Since I was still pretty sore from Sunday’s half marathon, it was actually pretty cool do a body scan, as I found that it actually eased the pain in the part I was focused on2.

A big part of mindfulness is paying attention to your thoughts. But not in a judgmental way – just observing them. Being non-judgmental and patient are two of things we are supposed to be practicing, and I found it amusing just my body scan to notice when I was having a judgmental thought and attempting to be nonjudgmental about my judgmentalness3.

During class, the instructor gave us some homework – first we had to pick one thing that we would do mindfully for two minutes per day – I chose petting my kitties. But then she said we are supposed to do a 30 minute body scan every day! I mean, I know that practice is critical to actually getting results, but I was unprepared for an expectation of an additional 3.5 hours per week on top of the 2 hour class! I’m not going to be able to fit that into my schedule every day, but I’m going to attempt to do it more than half the time. I guess we’ll see how that goes!

  1. Which would usually cost several hundred dollars. []
  2. Research has shown mindfulness to be effective for pain relief. []
  3. See also: being patient with my impatience. []

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A Three Brewery Tour. A Three Brewery Tour.

Brewery Tour gift certMy going away present from my coworkers at my old job was two tickets for a tour of three breweries – obviously, my former coworkers know me very well! The tour company, Vancouver Brewery Tours1 picks you up at Waterfront Station, takes you around to tour three different breweries – going behind the scenes to see all the cool equipment and learning about all the cool techniques of how they brew their beer – and then drops you back at Waterfront, so you can enjoy all the beery goodness – a flight at each brewery – in a responsible fashion. Due to my and Daniel’s crazy schedules, we hadn’t actually found a time to go on said brewery tour until two weekends ago – and then due to my crazy schedule, I haven’t found a time to blog about it until now!

Vancouver Brewery Tour Van

The first brewery we went to was Brassneck on Main St. We got to go backstage to see their cool stuff, tasted some grains that are used in the brewing process, and learned how they do their brewing. Breakneck doesn’t sell their beers at any restaurant, bars, or liquor stores, so the only way to try their wares is to either go to the tasting room at the brewery or to get a growler. After all the learning, we got a flight with the following four beers:

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Now, the tour started at noon and these beers are on the rather high side as far as alcohol concentration goes and given that I am the world’s cheapest drunk, I was already pretty tipsy after this first brewery! My favourite of these beers was the Cherubeque, a Belgian Amber Ale. The Changeling was interesting – Changeling is a kettle soured beer that Brassneck makes that differs by time of year – in the summer they use whatever fruit is in season and right now they are using gerwurztraminer grape must. So it looks like a beer, but it tasted more like wine. I think it would be perfect for anyone who doesn’t like beer, but wants to look like they are drinking beer. I enjoyed the little glass of it, but I think it would be too sour for a full pint, at least for me.

IMG_0314After Brassneck, we went to Bomber. Bomber is actually named after the hockey team that the founders play on – the earliest Bomber beers were actually home brews that the main brewer made and brought to the rink for after game beers – so I really wanted to like it, but their thing is really hoppy beers and I’m not big on super hoppiness. I mean, the beers were objectively very good beers, but just not my preferred style. When we got the behind the scenes tour, they showed us Bomber’s new canning machine – a lot of craft breweries just do bottles or growlers, but not cans and apparently it’s not just because cams are thought of as lower quality than bottles. The canning machine was described as costing “the same as a small condo in Vancouver”. Also, though they told us what the beers were when they brought us out flights, by the time I went to log them on my Untappd app  (about 5 mins later), I couldn’t even remember what 2 of the 4 beers were2. The ones I did remember were the IPA and the Belgian Blond.

IMG_0315

Our finals stop on the tour was at Steamworks‘ new production facility in Burnaby. I was familiar with the Steamworks Brew Pub in Gastown, but I didn’t know that they’d opened this new factory in Burnaby. Unlike the other breweries we went to, which were small breweries with tasting rooms, this was a really big facility to make lots and lots of beer (plus a tasting room). Steamworks is evidently ready for the big time. They also told us that the owner of Steamworks also owns the Rogue restaurants3.

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Despite their expansion, Steamworks still manages to make great beer. I much enjoyed the four beers that I tried at their brewery: Pilsner, Kolsch, Black Angel IPA4, and something else that I appear to not have included on my Untappd app and thus do not remember!

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All in all, it was an excellent brewery tour and I highly recommend it if you like beer. Thanks, former coworkers, for such a thoughtful going away present!

  1. As per usual, I have no ties to this company (or any of the breweries I’m blogging about) other than having enjoyed my tour! []
  2. Did I mention that I’m the world’s cheapest drunk? []
  3. Fun fact: I once times the trip from my desk to the front door of Rogue on Broadway and it took 3 mins and 33 seconds. And that included waiting for the light to cross the street. I’ve also since moved to the first floor of my building at work, meaning one fewer flights of stairs to walk down. Clearly, I need to time that again []
  4. IPAs are not my favourite, but I could still tell it was a good beer. []