# Saturday, October 26, 2019

Madonna never does anything halfway.

Monday night was her third of seven shows at the Chicago Theatre and she did not disappoint.

The show opened with a silhouetted typist loudly pounding out a James Baldwin passage on an old typewriter. A dancer jerked as each word appeared above the stage until he was shot dead. The quote was about art and artists and truth.

Then, the curtains drew, and Madonna appeared, dressed as a pirate, surrounded by dancers and a large American flag and a set consisting of multiple moving staircases.

The evening's show featured multiple costume and set changes and switched between tightly choreographed numbers and Madonna chatting casually with the audience. It lasted over two hours.

While Madonna did sing a few songs from the 1980s, when she regularly topped the charts ("Express Yourself", "Vogue", "Papa Don't Preach", "Like A Prayer"), most of the evening was devoted to her newer works. Madonna now makes her home in Lisbon and she brought guests to the stage, including a group of Portuguese singers performing energetic harmonies; and a guitar player performing an excellent solo, which launched into the lead singer's medley.

Dressed as the enigmatic one-eyed Madame X, she preached her political philosophy of independence, freedom, and tolerance throughout the show, mixing this with a bit of potty talk.

She closed with all the singers backing her up for "I Rise" as they marched into the audience and out the back of the theatre.

The show reminded me of a Broadway production more than a concert.

Saturday, October 26, 2019 6:30:41 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, October 22, 2019

IMG_6187Sometimes, I will hear a song and it will take me back to the time I first heard it - to the friends I was with and where we were and what we were doing and what I was feeling. A familiar song can bring happy memories and sad memories flooding back.

When I listen to the progressive rock band Kansas's "Leftoverture" and "Point of Know Return” albums, I'm transported to my high school days. I bought these 2 albums within months of each other and they were among the first of couple dozen albums of the thousands I eventually ended up buying.

Saturday night at the Genesee Theatre in Waukegan, IL, I felt I was surrounded by kindred spirits. The heads covered in gray hair (or lacking hair) suggested a crowd that also lived their youth in the 1970s. And the fact that so many gave a standing ovation after every song suggested that the memories invoked by the song were as important as the current performance of the song.

After 5 decades, only 2 founding members of Kansas remain - guitarist Rich Williams and drummer Phil Erhart. But the current members still respect the old songs and performed them very well. Original lead vocalist Steve Walsh is gone, but Chicago native and former truck driver Ronnie Platt sounded a heck of a lot like him; and David Ragsdale played an excellent electric violin, reminiscent of original violinist Robby Steinhardt, who gave Kansas its distinctive sound during their late 70s peak.

IMG_6191At Genesee, they played over half of "Leftoverture", including "Miracles Out of Nowhere" (my personal favourite) and "Carry on Wayward Son" (the evening's encore).

But the main draw of the performance was their "Point of Know Return", which the band played in its entirety. Hearing the tracks in order was like sitting in my parents’ basement with the stereo turned up loud while I pored over the lyrics, liner notes, and cover art. I was transported.

As were all the old folks around me.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019 9:12:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, October 21, 2019

Episode 581

Laurent Bugnion on the Ignite Tour

The Microsoft Ignite conference takes place in November in Orlando, FL; but not everyone can attend.

So, Laurent Bugnion and his team are organizing the Ignite Tour, bringing much of the content to 30 cities around the world in the months following the conference.

Laurent discusses what people can expect at these events.

Ignite Tour Home

Monday, October 21, 2019 9:10:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, October 20, 2019

WillieNile"I love quality" announced Willie Nile from the stage to the audience at SPACE in Evanston Friday night. And quality is what he delivered. From his 90-minute set to his excellent band (I was impressed by his new lead guitarist Jimmy Bones) to his charming demeanor to the warmup band (Georgia singer/songwriter Brad Ray, accompanied by his father).

If you don't know Willie Nile, you are not alone. He has carved out a successful career, recording a dozen studio albums that satisfied his fan base; but he has never cracked the top 40.

His music is old school rock and roll with cerebral lyrics. Think of Lou Reed crossed with Bruce Springsteen, crossed with the Clash.

WillieNile_DavidWith decades of material on which to draw, Nile had many quality choices. And he delighted the crowd with rockers like "House of a Thousand Guitars" and "All Dressed Up and No Place to Go", along with thoughtful slow songs like "The Innocent Ones", which he dedicated to the Kurds fighting for their lives in the middle east. For "The Streets of New York", he set aside is guitar and sat at the piano.

The band closed with a rousing rendition of "One Guitar" in which they were joined by Brad Ray and his dad).

Willie Nile stands about 5-foot-nothing and has sported a Cosmo Kramer haircut since years before there was a Cosmo Kramer. But Friday night in Evanston, he cranked out house rocking music a hundred feet tall.

And everything he did was filled with quality.

Photos

Sunday, October 20, 2019 4:09:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, October 17, 2019

GCast 64:

Noise Reduction with Audacity

Learn how to use Audacity to reduce the background noise in an audio file.

Thursday, October 17, 2019 2:06:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, October 14, 2019

Episode 580

Jason Bock on .NET Core 3

Jason Bock describes the most important new features in .NET Core 3

Monday, October 14, 2019 11:03:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, October 13, 2019

WideSargassoSeaCharlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre includes the character of Bertha - Rochester's mad wife, whom he keeps locked in the attic.

In Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys tells Bertha's story and her descent into madness.

Her name was Antoinette and she was the Creole daughter of a slave owning family in 19th century Jamaica. The family fell into financial and social ruin when the British Empire outlawed slavery.  The local freed slaves hated them enough that they eventually burned down their home and killed Antoinette's brother. Her mother married a wealthy Englishman, who killed himself, driving her mother to madness. Antoinette was raised by nuns at a convent and eventually an Englishman married her for her inheritance. But the unnamed Englishman (presumably Mr. Rochester) was unloving and believed rumors that he heard about Antoinette and her family. He became distant and unfaithful and even began calling her "Bertha" instead of her real name over Antoinette's objections.

The book humanizes Bertha / Antoinette, who is no longer the monstrous lunatic of Bronte's novel. Her troubled mind is in part due to heredity and in part to her traumatic upbringing and unhappy marriage.  Her marriage to Rochester resulted in the loss of her freedom, which is analogous to the slavery inflicted by her own ancestors. The novel explores conflicts between races and genders and classes and forces the reader to think about the choices we make in life. Although Antoinette looks white, she is part black and not fully accepted by either race. Her marriage to Rochester is, in part, an effort to escape her situation.

Sargasso is probably the most interesting examples of fan fiction I've read. The narration suddenly shifts from Antoinette to Rochester without explanation, which was a bit jarring and confusing. But a quick re-read of the opening pages of Section 2 clarified my perspective.

It isn't necessary to read Jane Eyre before this novel, but it helps one appreciate where the character is going. If you have not yet read Bronte's classic novel, I recommend reading a synopsis before diving into this one. The book does stand on its own; but is better as a prequel and explanation of Bronte's novel.

Sunday, October 13, 2019 8:59:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, October 7, 2019

Episode 579

Laurent Ellerbach on Diversity and Inclusion Workshop

Laurent Ellerbach has developed a workshop to help people think about and talk about Diversity and Inclusion. In this workshop, attendees articulate their ideas visually using Lego bricks.

Monday, October 7, 2019 9:13:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, October 6, 2019

10/6
Today I am grateful for phone calls yesterday from my sister Debbie and my cousin Kevin.

10/5
Today I am grateful to write some code the past couple weeks for the first time in too long.

10/4
Today I am grateful for a free annual flu shot.

10/3
Today I am grateful for a visit this week from John and Becky.

10/2
Today I am grateful for dinner last night with John and Becky.

10/1
Today I am grateful for a long-overdue haircut last night.

9/30
Today I am grateful to see the Billy Cobham Crosswinds Project featuring Randy Brecker last night at the City Winery.

9/29
Today I am grateful to cook a nice meal for someone yesterday for the first time in a long time.

9/28
Today I am grateful to see Bruce Cockburn in concert last night.

9/27
Today I am grateful for a grocery store 1 block from my home.

9/26
Today I am grateful to see Ad Astra in Lincoln Square last night. And for a 10-mile bike ride home after the movie.

9/25
Today I am grateful for the flexibility to work where I want on many days.

9/24
Today I am grateful for a birthday dinner with Tim and Natale last night at Au Cheval.

9/23
Today I am grateful for my son's new job as head basketball coach at Kalamazoo College.

9/22
Today I am grateful to attend the MSU-Northwestern football game in Evanston yesterday.

9/21
Today I am grateful for a few days in Redmond and Bellevue.

9/20
Today I am grateful:
-to attend a Train the Trainer course for a Diversity and Inclusion workshop yesterday
-for lunch yesterday with my boss's boss's boss (After months of phone conversations, we finally met in person)

9/19
Today I am grateful for my first visit to an Afghan restaurant.

9/18
Today I am grateful for dinner with John last night.

9/17
Today I am grateful for a night in my own bed.

9/16
Today I am grateful for an excellent weekend in London.

9/15
Today I am grateful for:
-a tour of Westminster Abbey
-Lunch with Peter
-my first visit to the British Museum
-seeing "Matilda" live in London's West End

9/14
‪Today I am grateful for:‬
‪-Coffee with Galiya and Gary ‬
‪-Dinner with James and Gosia ‬
‪-Seeing Rachel before she left London ‬

9/13
Today I am grateful to work with customers who are excited about what we are working on together.

9/12
Today I am grateful to work with smart people.

9/11
Today I am grateful for dinner with this team at an English Pub last night.

Sep 11, 2019, 7:29 AM

9/10
Today I am grateful for my first visit to Peterborough, England.

9/9
Today I am grateful for a week in Rome.

9/8
Today I am grateful to visit the Coliseum, the Forum, the Vatican, the Spanish Steps and other attractions in Rome yesterday with Hattan, Anders, and Robert.

9/7
Today I am grateful for a successful OpenHack in Rome this week.

9/6
Today I am grateful my camera was still there when I went back to look for it.

9/5
Today I am grateful for a hot shower following a restless night.

9/4
Today I am grateful for dinner with Hattan last night.

9/3
‪Today I am grateful for my first visit to Rome in over 30 years. ‬

9/2
Today I am grateful for my first visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Sunday, October 6, 2019 1:27:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, October 5, 2019

AmericanTragedyClyde Griffiths is an ambitious young man.

At the age of 21, he finds himself working for a rich uncle who owns a shirt company. He is the boss of a department filled with young ladies and, despite company rules expressly forbidding such things, begins an affair with one of them - the beautiful Roberta Alden. He is also welcomed into the social circles of the local aristocracy, where he is liked for his good looks and charm. Soon, he meets rich, beautiful Sondra and decides he loves her instead of Roberta. Unfortunately, he continues to sleep with Roberta; and, when she becomes pregnant, he is left with a dilemma: marry the girl he no longer loves or abandon her for Sondra, risking exposure for his philandering. It is at this point that Clyde contemplates murder.

Clyde sounds like a terrible person. Who would treat people like this and place his own ambitions above the very lives of others? But An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser does not begin with Clyde's entry into high society. It begins with his childhood in Kansas City, where Clyde was the eldest son of street evangelists. Poor and embarrassed, he finds work as a hotel busboy, which puts some money in his pocket. He begins spending his evenings squandering his salary on booze and prostitutes. After being exploited by the selfish gold digger Hortense Briggs, who manipulates him into buying her expensive gifts, he develops a mistrust of women. At one point, Clyde is a passenger in a stolen car that is involved in a fatal hit-and-run. Fearing arrest, Clyde flees Kansas City and changes his name. By doing so, he learns that he can avoid responsibility and punishment by running away.

Each stage of Clydes's life reinforces in him his desire for material wealth and social standing. He becomes more self-centered with each passing year - not evil, but with little empathy toward others.

The book ends with a murder trial, a thorough analysis of one of the book's central tragedies.

There are side stories: the office of the ambitious district attorney that has no qualms about manufacturing evidence; the mother who refuses to acknowledge the possibility that her son might be guilty; the virginal Roberta's agonizing choice to give herself to Clyde or risk losing him; and Sondra, whose parents disapprove of her relationship with a boy they see as lower in social ranking.

But mostly, this is Clyde's story. And the reader cannot help but sympathize with him, even though his problems are almost entirely self-inflicted. Clyde is a product of his experiences. He has been conditioned by society to want what others have, and he doesn't have the courage to question this.

Dreiser removes much ambiguity by telling the reader explicitly what is in the mind of each character as they are speaking. With Clyde, the ambiguity remains because Clyde himself does not understand his own emotions.

There are three deaths in the novel. And, although each is tragic, the real tragedy of the story is the slow descent of Clyde's conscience. He never sees himself as evil, but he falls for the material comforts, and the pretty girls, and he comes to believe that he is entitled to these things and that his desires take precedence over the needs of anyone else.

An American Tragedy is not perfect. It's longer than it needs to be, and it moves slowly at times. But it is a good crime story; a good legal drama; and a very good psychological analysis of a misguided mind growing up under the influence of American values.

Saturday, October 5, 2019 9:14:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)