# Wednesday, 06 September 2017

TheEyreAffairThursday Next is an agent working for the British Special Operations law enforcement agency in an alternate world where England and Russia are still fighting the Crimean War, where Wales is an independent country, and where time travel is possible.

The people of this 1985 England love their literature. They are so passionate that literary arguments sometimes erupt into riots and a special government police department exists solely to deal with crimes of literature. Thursday works for this department.

In The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, Thursday's uncle Mycroft invents a machine that allows people and characters to travel in and out of fictional books. If one enters a book and changes the plot, the story in the actual book changes. If this happens in an original manuscript, every copy of that book is modified. The Villainous Hades kidnaps Mycroft, steals the machine and some original literary classic manuscripts; then blackmails England, threatening to kill characters in the book, destroying England's most beloved literature. And only Thursday can stop him.
 
If you think this sounds like some serious suspension of disbelief, you'd be right. If you think it sounds somewhat silly, you are right about that as well. This novel is filled with weird science and over-the-top characters with names like Braxton Hicks and Jack Schitt. But it works. And not just as satire and humor. Although the story never takes itself too seriously, it never falls into the completely absurd, as with authors like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett.

The Eyre Affair is a silly, adventure, detective, sci-fi, comedy story filled with action and memorable characters.

I loved it.

Wednesday, 06 September 2017 05:49:42 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 04 September 2017
# Sunday, 03 September 2017

9/3
Today I am grateful to attend a Windy City Thunderbolts game last night.

9/2
Today I am grateful to go to the gym and dinner last night with my son.

9/1
Today I am grateful to see Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in concert last night.

8/31
Today I am grateful for a week of technical training in Chicago with my team.

8/30
Today I am grateful to finally replace my broken reading glasses.

8/29
Today I am grateful that, after staying up until 4AM completing the materials, my workshop yesterday was well received.

8/28
Today I am grateful for a walk around the Oak Park Arts & Crafts Show yesterday

8/27
Today I am grateful for lunch with Tim yesterday.

8/26
Today I am grateful for a Gary Southshore Rail Cats baseball game last night.

8/25
Today I am grateful for lunch with Jaidev yesterday.

8/24
Today I am grateful for a walk along the St. Joseph River yesterday.

8/23
Today I am grateful to work remotely yesterday in southwest Michigan.

8/22
Today I am grateful for: -a view of the solar eclipse from Grant Park yesterday; - Joe Healy's help with a PowerApps issue

8/21
Today I am grateful for dinner with Nick, Tim, and Adriana last night.

8/20
Today I am grateful for a drive/walk around Indiana's Heritage Trail yesterday.

8/19
Today I am grateful for an Amish dinner in Amish country last night.

8/18
Today I am grateful for: -seeing the Gaugin exhibit yesterday at the Chicago Art Institute; -attending the Chicago Polyglot Mingle last night in Old Town.

8/17
Today I am grateful for online music.

8/16
Today I am grateful that my parents saved their whole lives and left something to their children.

8/15
Today I am grateful to pair program with an inexperienced developer last night.

8/14
Today I am grateful for a Sunday walk around Oak Park, IL.

8/13
Today I am grateful to see Benny Golson in concert last night and to take my son to his first jazz club.

8/12
Today I am grateful for a successful surgery yesterday.

8/11
Today I am grateful to see Youssou N'Dour in concert last night.

8/10
Today I am grateful to the organizers and volunteers who worked so hard to make #ThatConference a success.

8/9
Today I am grateful for a visit to the water park last night.

8/8
Today I am grateful for: -lunch with Ondrej -a drive to the Wisconsin Dells. -Seeing old friends -Dinner with my team

8/7
Today I am grateful for an afternoon at Three Oaks Recreation Area in Crystal Lakes, IL.

Sunday, 03 September 2017 13:58:49 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 28 August 2017
Monday, 28 August 2017 12:43:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Garion was an orphan boy living on a farm with his Aunt Pol when Mister Wolf a kindly, old traveler - took the two of them on a quest to retrieve a stolen object of great value.

Mister Wolf turns out to be Garion's grandfather the ancient sorcerer Belgarath; and the stolen object turns out to be a magical orb forged by the god Aldur, and stolen by his brother Torak, who now lies asleep for centuries after the orb was re-captured by Belgarath. Prophecies surrounded the orb, including one that foretells a battle to the death between Torak and Garion (now renamed Belgarian).

The 5-volume epic fantasy The Belgariad by David Eddings follows the trio and companions they gather along their quest to both liberate enslaved lands and to fulfill the prophecies of the orb. Although the prophecy predicts a death battle between Belgarian and Torak, it does not predict the outcome of this battle. Along the way, they pick up the runaway princess Ce'Nedra, with whom young Belgarian has a love/hate relationship.

With 5 volumes to work with, Eddings does a good job of weaving a story of adventure and building a cast of characters and a relationship between those characters. The Belgariad is a coming-age-story for Belgarian, and also a coming-age-story for Ce'Nedra, who grows from spoiled princess to potential monarch in the latter two novels. Belgarian discovers himself, his magical abilities, and his destiny as he travels across the world fighting evil.

Each book begins with a brief story of the old gods and their battle for the orb during ancient times. This story is told in a more formal voice (as if read aloud from an ancient codex) than the rest of the book, which focuses on the story of Belgarian and his company. 

The story is much less complex than the Lord of the Rings (from which it draws obvious inspiration). The wizard-led fellowship traveling across a dangerous world of fantastic beasts and pitting magic against magic is similar enough to Tolkein's story, that I could not help reading the part of Belgarath in the voice of Ian McKellan. But Eddings makes The Belgariad original enough and adds enough action to hold my interest throughout.

My only complaint is how little time is devoted to the final, inevitable battle between Belgarian and Torak. We wait for it for 4.9 books and it is over too quickly.

It's not a classic, but The Belgariad is definitely worthwhile and is an enjoyable story set in an interesting world.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017 10:50:00 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 21 August 2017

BennyGolson Last week, I took my son to his first jazz club. We saw Benny Golson at the Jazz Showcase in the South Loop. He liked it.

Golson has been performing tenor saxophone publicly for decades and has accumulated a number of stories of his interactions with many of the all-time greats - from Dizzy Gillespie to Eric Burdon. He spent much of this evening telling of his days with other musicians, preceding each song with the tale of how that song came to be. For example, he spoke of writing "I remember Clifford" after learning of the death of his friend Clifford Brown; and he talked about playing "Whisper Not" for Dizzy Gillespie and trying to remain cool after Gillespie asked if he could record the song.

At 85, Golson is showing his age. He no longer has the stamina to maintain the long slow notes that many of his melodies demand.  But on this night in Chicago's South Loop, he surrounded himself with some excellent musicians (piano, upright bass, and drums), who made up for that with their solos.

And Golson is best known for his songwriting prowess and nearly every song he performed was his own composition. And his melodies are still lovely.

And my son enjoyed his first jazz concert.

Monday, 21 August 2017 00:04:29 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, 16 August 2017

YoussouNDour0130 years ago, I received as a gift the album "Nelson Mandela" by Youssou N'Dour. I was hooked. N'Dour exposed to me an engaging style that combined traditional rhythms of his native Senegal with western instruments.

Thursday night at Millennium Park, I finally had the chance to see N'Dour in concert. He did not disappoint.

Throughout the show, everyone smiled and danced to the music. The audience enjoyed themselves, Youssou enjoyed himself, and the band enjoyed themselves. Except for the rhythm guitar player, who remained stoically stone-faced throughout the performance, despite being surrounded by smiling musicians and fans.

YoussouNDour02N'Dour shared the stage with about a dozen other musicians, including two keyboardists, 3 guitarists, 4(!) drummers, and 1 dancer.

They played danceable Afro-pop for over 90 minutes and came back for an encore to the delight of the crowd.

The show was a treat for those of us who love African music. Next to the stage, I saw people dressed in African garb dancing to the music. A few rows back, I saw middle-aged white Americans tapping their feet. Even though none of the songs were sung in English, Youssou and his band made a connection with an audience far from his homeland.

By the end of the show, even the rhythm guitarist had to smile.


More photos

Wednesday, 16 August 2017 07:07:21 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, 14 August 2017
Monday, 14 August 2017 16:52:57 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, 08 August 2017
Tuesday, 08 August 2017 05:21:28 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)