# Friday, December 22, 2017

Me and Roy Roy Ayers is 77 years old and stutters when he talks. But not when he sings. And definitely not when he plays the vibraphone. And play he did last night in front of a packed house at The Promontory in Hyde Park.

Ayers mixed a few ballads with the jazz-funk that he helped define. Backed by a band consisting of bass, drums, keyboard, and another vocalist, Ayers played for about 90 minutes, drawing on his 99 albums with such songs as "Red, Black & Green", "Don't Stop the Feeling", and his interpretation of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me".

The keyboardist was the best of the bunch, coaxing a variety of sounds from his instrument during his many solos. I wondered why the stage setup hid so much of him from the audience's view.

And then there was Roy and his vibraphone. Ayers still sounds great when he does his thing with his vibes.

Also Me and RoyI bought a ticket at the door and had to stand in the back with some folks who decided it was ok to engage in loud conversation at the concert. But I had a chance to shake the hand of Mr. Ayers after the show and tell him how much I enjoyed his music.

And to wish him luck on his next 99 albums.

Friday, December 22, 2017 10:33:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, December 21, 2017

"Mirror Dance" by Lois McMaster Bujold is the sequel to "Brothers In Arms", the novel that introduced Miles Vorkosigan's clone / brother Mark.

mirror_danceFollowing Miles's rescue of Mark in the previous novel, the brothers return to Miles's home planet of Barrayar, where Mark decides to launch a rescue mission to liberate clones who are intended to be used as replacement parts for their genetic donors. Miles follows and is gravely wounded in the ensuing battle. His body is cryogenically frozen and then disappears. Mark returns to Barrayar to deliver the news to their parents - Lord Aral and Lady Cordelia. Arel and Cordelia  accept Mark as their son and a potential heir to the Vorkosigan line. Ultimately, Mark launches another rescue mission, this one to find and save Miles, who has been revived by scientists on an enemy planet.

This is one of Bujold's strongest novels. She not only tells a complex story, but she dives further into the emotions of her characters - particularly the clone Mark.

The definition of humanity and the rights that go with it are common themes of Bujold's books and this one delves into it very well, if a little heavy-handed. Interwoven with this general question is Mark’s personal struggle to define his own identity. He desperately wants to define himself outside of just the clone of a heroic Lord. But, his struggle to do so often leads to failure. Others help him with the struggle. He was raised to assassinate Miles's father, but ends up being accepted by his potential victim and his new family.

Thursday, December 21, 2017 11:14:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 18, 2017
Monday, December 18, 2017 5:36:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 11, 2017
Monday, December 11, 2017 11:48:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, December 8, 2017

BrothersInArmsFor years, Miles has been leading a double life - he was born Lord Miles Vorkosigan who became a lieutenant in the army of the Barryaran empire; but he sometimes assumes the role of Admiral Naismith, leader of the  Dendarii Free Mercenary Fleet.

One day, Miles is forced to appear on the same planet as both of his persona on the same day. Fearing his cover will be blown, he invents a story that Naismith is actually Miles's clone.

Shortly afterward, Miles discovers that he actually does have a clone and that this clone is being used by his enemies in a plot to assasinate Miles.

The book is a good adventure story. It advances the relationship between Miles and Elli (his bodyguard / lover); and it addresses a glaring plot problem - Miles disguises himself as a mercenary Admiral despite his unique physique. It also takes place on future Earth, which is a bonus for those of us who call Earth home today.

Friday, December 8, 2017 7:18:10 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 4, 2017
Monday, December 4, 2017 9:59:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, December 3, 2017

Today I am grateful to attend DataSciConf in Atlanta for the first time.

Today I am grateful for dinner last night with Shawn and Resa.

Today I am grateful to see an exciting Hawks-Cavs game with Dave at Philips Arena last night.

Today I am grateful for:
-Arriving safely in Atlanta after some delays.
-The Data Sci conference speaker dinner last night

Today I am grateful to the Greater Chicago Food Depository for letting me help yesterday.

Today I am grateful to Lisa and Betsy for taking over the Midwest Geeks call, after my 4 years facilitating it.

Today I am grateful for the public library.

Today I am grateful for a weekend in Michigan visiting friends and family.

Today I am grateful to Desi and Ondrej for a home-cooked meal and a place to stay last night.

Today I am grateful to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with family in Michigan.

Today I am grateful that most of my family lives within driving distance.

Today I am grateful to see Mark Colby in concert at the Jazz Showcase last night.

Today I am grateful for the cabinets I cleaned out last night and all the crap I threw away.

Today I am grateful for the man who watched my car at the airport terminal yesterday while I ran in to check a bag.

Today I am grateful to deliver the keynote at GangConf yesterday and to remain a part of #MIGANG after all these years.

Today I am grateful for:
-Attending a home Raptors game for the first time;
-My first visit to Canada in 10 years

Today I am grateful for:
-My first visit to the University of Toronto
-An exciting overtime NHL game at Air Canada Arena
-My first time attending a Maple Leafs home game.

Today I am grateful for my first visit to the University of Waterloo.

Today I am grateful for my first visit to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Today I am grateful to arrive safely in Boston on a difficult travel day.

Today I am grateful for:
-a walk around downtown Princeton, NJ yesterday afternoon
-a tour of Princeton University by Mihaela Friday afternoon

Today I am grateful to get to bed early last night.

Today I am grateful for my first visit to Princeton, NJ and Princeton University.

Today I am grateful to attend an exciting Philadelphia Flyers game last night at the Wells Fargo Arena with Jeffrey.

Today I am grateful to Sarah for making me look good at UIUC yesterday.

Today I am grateful to the Uber driver who stopped by my home to drop off the lens cap I left in his car last week.

Today I am grateful to speak at PyData Chicago for the first time.

Today I am grateful that the weather here is still nice enough that I can walk to church.

Sunday, December 3, 2017 3:51:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, November 27, 2017
Monday, November 27, 2017 10:34:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, November 26, 2017

Outlander, the first novel by American author Diana Gabaldon, was originally published in 1991. It has since inspired 7 sequels (so far), a TV series, and a graphic novel.

OutlanderThe story focuses on Claire, a World War II combat nurse. The war kept Claire and her husband Frank apart; so, when it ended, they traveled to Inverness, Scotland for a second honeymoon and to allow Frank to research his ancestors.

While in Scotland, Claire encounters an ancient Druid shrine that magically transports her to the mid-18th century. Almost immediately after entering the past, Claire is attacked by the sadistic British Captain Jack Randall. It turns out that Randall is the direct ancestor of Claire's 20th century husband. She is rescued by Scottish clansmen and caught in the struggle between the English army and the Scottish clans.

Although often classified as a science fiction novel (I first learned of Outlander on NPR's Top 100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books, this book is primarily an historical romance. The time travel incident serves mostly as a MacGuffin to thrust together Claire and Jamie.

Despite Claire's 20th century marriage, she falls in love with Jamie Fraser, the handsome, rugged Scottish warrior. Their marriage is initial one of convenience (Claire can escape English arrest by becoming a Scottish citizen), but a passion soon ignites between the two and the subsequent sex scenes are frequent and racy enough to make a Scotsman blush.

Outlander is also an adventure story. Jamie and Claire are pursued across Scotland by the English army and the vengeful Captain Randall. Claire is captured and rescued, and Frank is captured and rescued, and they travel and fight the English and have sex with each other and fight each other and have sex with the English and travel some more.

Outlander is not for everyone. Some readers will take issue with the patriarchal nature of 18th century marriages - particularly a scene where Jamie beats his wife for disobeying him and Claire is quick to forgive him. Others may be turned off by a prolonged description of male-on-male rape and torture near the end of the book.

But if you can get past these, it is a pretty good story. And enough readers think so that Gabaldon continues to extend this series today.

Sunday, November 26, 2017 7:38:01 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, November 24, 2017

HomelandDrizzt Do'Urden was born into the underworld of Mgnzoberranzan, home of The Drow or Dark Elves. The city is ruled by the tyrannical Matrons, who worship the malevolent spider god Lolth. Theirs is a world in which violence and treachery are praised and rewarded, while empathy and sympathy are perceived as weaknesses to be severely punished. Mgnzoberranzan is divided into Great Houses, that often clash violently with one another to improve their standing within this city's hierarchy.

Drizzt is the most gifted warrior of his people. He is trained by the great Weapon Master Zaknafein and he surpasses all his classmates at the Academy.

But Drizzt is unlucky enough to be born with a conscience in this sadistic, society. He questions the ethics of the Menzoberranzan society and their worship of the malevolent spider-god Lolth.

Drizzt joins in the drow attacks against his people's enemies. His fighting prowess increases his reputation, but he begins to see that his family and people have been dishonest about the character and motivations of their enemies.

Homeland is the first book in R. A. Salvatore's Dark Elf Trilogy, which is chronologically the first trilogy of his Legend of Drizzt series. These series and many of Salvatore's other books take place in the Forgotten Realms universe, made popular by the Dungeons and Dragons fantasy role-playing game.

The novel is an adventure story and Drizzt is never certain who (if anyone) is his ally. He hopes, but does not know if he can count on Zaknafein and the pan-dimensional panther Guenhwyvar as allies. Each of the great houses uses deception to plot against rival houses in their quest for revenge and power in this dysfunctional world.

Homeland explores the conflict between personal principles and our natural desire to belong to a family and social order. Drizzt's conflicts are extreme (he is good, and his family and people are evil), but we all suffer this same internal battle at times.

The characters don't have a lot of depth and the writing is a bit heavy handed at times. But the story is good fun. And I enjoyed it.

Friday, November 24, 2017 6:21:13 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)