# Monday, April 1, 2019

Episode 557

Brent Stineman on the Evolution of Serverless

Brent Stineman describes Serverless cloud technologies and how they have evolved to make applications more flexible.

Monday, April 1, 2019 9:22:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, March 30, 2019

IAmMalalaIt was October 9, 2012, just after noon. A group of Taliban terrorists boarded a bus in Swat District, Pakistan and shot 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai in the head. They targeted her for pursuing an education for herself and for promoting education for women - something The Taliban insist is forbidden by the Quran. They left her for dead.

But Malala did not die. Thanks to emergency medical attention in Pakistan, and further treatment in the UK, she survived to become an international advocate for female and youth education. Two years later, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (the youngest Nobel recipient in history), and she wrote I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban - a book chronicling her story.

Malala describes her home province as a beautiful landscape that serves as a vacation destination for many Pakistanis; but it is also a battleground between the Pakistani army and the Taliban - a fundamentalist terrorist organization that seeks power for itself and strict adherence to Muslim law. They strive to achieve these goals through violence and intimidation.

Malala's story starts long before the attack on the bus. Her father Ziauddin ran the school that his daughter attended. He was progressive enough to allow girls into his school and generous enough to allow some of the poorer students to stay and eat at the family's home. Ziauddin was an outspoken proponent of education for all, which hid not endear him to groups like the Taliban. At a young age, Malala herself began writing an anonymous blog, promoting the right to education for all.

The book's writing style reminds us that Malala is still a school girl; but the message is a powerful, adult one: A young girl's courage to stand up to terrorism, violence, and oppression can inspire us all.

I became aware of Malala shortly after her recovery from the assassination attempt, when she began speaking publicly and meeting with international officials, such as Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth. But I was unaware that she had been fighting for these things for most of her life. She was awarded Pakistan’s first National Peace Award for Youth at the age of 14 - an award that now bears her name.

She grew up during a turbulent time in northern Pakistan. National politicians largely ignored the remote region, except during elections. Political power in the district was concentrated among a few families. Drone attacks from the U.S. in the area and suspicion of U.S. spies led to a general distrust of America by the locals. The U.S. Military discovered Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden hiding in a compound a few miles from Malala's home and killed him during a raid. The Pakistani military did not assert its full power to maintain the safety of the citizens. All these factors allowed the Taliban to gain influence in the area and eventually assert control at least as strong as the Pakistani military. The Taliban arrived when Malala was 10 years old. They steadily increased their power in the region by recruiting the disenfranchised and by terrorizing any who disagreed with their interpretation of Islam.

I am Malala was co-written by British journalist Christina Lamb, but it still retains the voice of a teenage girl, concerned with her friends and her clothes and arguing with her brothers; but also recognizing the importance of what she and her father are doing. And having the courage to voice that importance. Malala Yousafzai miraculously survived an assassination attempt at point-blank range; and she seized the opportunity to spread her message throughout the world. This book is part of that.

Saturday, March 30, 2019 8:20:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, March 28, 2019

GCast 41:

Using the PowerPoint Selection Pane

The Selection Pane is a little-used PowerPoint feature that can make it easier to manage a complex slide.

Thursday, March 28, 2019 8:38:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, March 25, 2019

Episode 554

Bret Stateham on IoT Edge

Bret Stateham describes how to effectively use IoT Edge to move some of your processing and logic closer to your IoT devices.

Monday, March 25, 2019 8:20:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, March 23, 2019

RabbitRunHarry "Rabbit" Angstrom isn't much good at anything. In high school, he was an outstanding basketball player, but he has accomplished little since then. After tasting that early success, life feels empty at 26 - trapped in a boring job and a loveless marriage to an alcoholic wife.

So, one day, he abandons his pregnant wife Janice and their toddler son and moves in with a prostitute.

Rabbit - the main character of John Updike's 1960 novel Rabbit, Run - is decidedly unlikeable. He is self-absorbed and shallow and oversexed and manipulative. Still, those around him seem to like him and are more than willing to give him multiple chances to prove his integrity. It may be because he says and does whatever comes into his head. But his tendency toward immediate gratification is his main problem and often comes at a high cost to others. Rabbit never considers the consequences of his actions or the people he hurts as he runs from his responsibilities and obligations.

In particularly examples of self-absorption and manipulation, he coerces his lover into performing fellatio, because he learns she once did it for someone else. The next morning, he abandons his lover and returns to his wife without even a phone call. A few weeks later, he storms out of his apartment when his wife refuses to have sex with him shortly after giving birth.

Updike has a way of keeping the reader engaged, even during the most mundane moments. We see inside Rabbit's mind and feel his rationalizations. But the story isn't just about Rabbit. Updike tells the thoughts of the others in Rabbit's lives and their troubles. And many of them also run from their troubles - particularly Janice, who escapes into alcohol.

Of course, the most dramatic parts of the story are also engaging. I could not look away as Updike described the inevitable tragedy near the end of the book. Rabbit's wife is home with their baby, and she is drinking when "the worst thing that has ever happened to any woman in the world has happened to her." We see it coming a mile away, but it is still a shock, when it happens.

Rabbit, Run is a good look into the psyche of an American male trying to find himself, and what happens when he focuses too much on that goal.

Saturday, March 23, 2019 8:08:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, March 21, 2019

GCast 40:

IoT Hubs

Azure IoT Hubs allow you to send and receive messages between devices all over the world and Azure.

Thursday, March 21, 2019 8:35:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, March 18, 2019

Episode 554

Kevin Griffin on Whats New in SignalR

Kevin Griffin returns to the subject of SignalR, describing the advances in this push technology since we last spoke of it years ago.

Monday, March 18, 2019 8:11:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, March 17, 2019

NakedLunchNaked Lunch by William S. Burroughs is a difficult book to read and to understand. I'm still not sure I do.

The book consists of a series of descriptions of the visions seen while high on heroine, morphine, or some derivative thereof. Many of the visions consist of deviant sexual fantasies, including sadomasochistic scenarios so extreme that they lead to murder and suicide.

Burroughs was one of the most famous writers of the influential "Beat Generation", although he never approached the fame and success of his friends Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac

Burroughs spent much of his adult life in a drugged-out haze and many of the visions told here are based on his own experiences. "Naked Lunch” written largely in a drug-induced haze, which may have increase Burroughs's creativity; but it clearly pushed him toward a very confused story.

Shortly after its publication, Naked Lunch was banned as pornography in Massachusetts.

I disagree with attempts to ban this book; but I fail to see its value as a classic. It is a non-linear narrative with no discernable plot or story. Apparently, several of the characters are the same character with different pseudonyms. But I don't know how anyone could figure that out without being told. As a result, it is far less compelling than other non-linear classics, such as Joseph Heller's excellent Catch-22.

I respect the fact that Burroughs pushed boundaries in the literary world and that he influenced other writers. The author sometimes captures the paranoia and other-worldliness of drug addiction. But Naked Lunch tries too hard to shock the reader. I can only take so much talk of vomit and jizz and people shitting themselves before it all sounds like rambling.

I will give the book the credit it deserves for one thing: The great rock/jazz band Steely Dan took their name from a brand of sex devices described in Naked Lunch.

Sunday, March 17, 2019 8:37:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, March 16, 2019

OddAndTheFrostGiantsNeil Gaiman knows how to tell a story. And Odd and the Frost Giants is no exception.

Odd was a crippled Norse boy in the age of the Vikings. Odd's father was dead, and his mother had re-married a neglectful man. One day, Odd rescued a bear and was followed home by the beast, along with an eagle and a fox. The three creatures turned out to be the gods Thor, Odin, and Loki transformed by an evil frost giant and cast out of Asgard, as part of a plot to steal Thor's hammer Mjolnir and to kidnap the beautiful goddess Freya.

Odd and the trio set out for Asgard to rescue Mjolnir and Freya.

Undersized and weak, Odd proves more valuable than expected.

This is a short, but delightful book - not only for its story and its characters - but for Gaiman's prose. One can imagine him sitting around a campfire and relaying the tale to a circle of Vikings who listen in wonder. As a bonus, each chapter features a beautiful ink drawing by Brett Helquist. Readers of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" will know his work; but, in this book, each drawing has the look of a woodcut, giving it a distinctly Nordic feel.

Odd and the Frost Giants is targeted at school-age children, but I am well into my 50s and I enjoyed it.

Saturday, March 16, 2019 8:33:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, March 15, 2019

IMG_3727Not only did I fail to see "Miss Saigon" in the 20 years since its premier in London's West End, I failed to learn anything about the show. I didn't know who wrote it, I haven't heard a song, and I did not know the plot. I didn't even know that it is an adaptation of Puccini’s "Madame Butterfly" opera.

That all changed Thursday night at the Wharton Enter in East Lansing, MI. My niece and I braved a hail storm and flooded streets to grab second-row tickets to see a touring company as it passed through mid-Michigan.

To spoil it for those of you who did as little research as I did: Miss Saigon tells the story of Chris, an American G.I., who falls in love with Kim, a young Vietnamese girl during the Vietnam War. When Saigon falls to the Viet Cong, Chris escapes, but Kim does not. It's a tragic story of war and lost love and what might have been.

The performance at Wharton was wonderful,

Emily Bautista and Anthony Festa moved our hearts as the star-crossed lover.

But the show was stolen by "The Engineer" - a sleazy night club / brothel host/manager, who manipulates Kim and other women, but somehow gains some sympathy from the audience. I believe Thursday night's performance featured understudy Eymard Cabling, rather than the regular Red Concepcion in this role. Regardless, he played the character flawlessly.

Another scene-stealer was the micro-urchin who played Kim's son Tam. He had no lines, but he overwhelmed us with is cuteness every time he stepped on stage.

I didn't hear any hit songs, but he music of "Miss Saigon" always satisfied. Song flowed into song so frequently that there were fewer opportunities to applaud than most shows afford. There were no low points in a lovely musical score, which was carried well by the cast.

The stage setting was very impressive for a small-city touring company. The highlight was a helicopter that loomed over the U.S. Consulate in Saigon to rescue the last of the refugees before the city's fall. One could almost smell the diesel coming off this impressive effect.

The final scene left the audience in tears.

Our attendance was a late decision, but this was an evening very well spent and one I will remember for a long time. It was well worth a trek through the hail and floods.

Friday, March 15, 2019 2:20:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)