# Sunday, November 24, 2019

I had never been to Tokyo; I had never been to Japan; in fact, I had never been to Asia.

Until last week.

20191112_130029 1I was asked to work at an OpenHack in Tokyo, and I quickly agreed to an opportunity to visit this faraway place for the first time.

The OpenHack went well. Attendees learned how to work with data in the cloud and I served as a coach for a team of Japanese developers. It was a joy to work with other smart people and help people learn. I even had a chance to deliver two presentations to the attendees – one on Azure Data Factory and one on Azure DataBricks.

I was asked to buy coffee for the team as punishment for the two days I arrived late to our morning standup meeting (even though I was to blame for only one of those late arrivals)

IMG_6558The day prior to the OpenHack, we took a hike through nearby Hibiya Park, which featured two scenic ponds, a fountain, and colorful wildlife.

Until Thursday evening, I was mostly focused on the OpenHack. But I had all day Friday and Saturday (and parts of some other days) to explore this new city and I took advantage.

IMG_6501Tokyo is a large urban area with an enormous population, but there are many parks and natural areas within the city. My colleague Madhu talked me into waking up early Wednesday and Thursday morning to visit some shrines in the city before heading to work. It was completely worth it, even though we ended up buying coffee for the team.

Sensō-ji is a Buddhist temple near a market area in Asakusa. Outside the temple is an impressive garden with admirable landscaping and a stream flowing through it. 

Tokyo (3)Meiji Jingu is a shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken, who were instrumental in bringing Japan into the Industrial Age in the early 20th century. The shrine is in the center of a beautiful forest in the middle of Tokyo.

Tokyo (5)Friday afternoon, I met with my friend Peter. Peter and I went to college together and he moved to Japan about 30 years ago, so I had not seen him in decades. We met by the Shibuya Crossing - an intersection of 6 major roads that allows hundreds of pedestrians to cross in any direction simultaneously when the signal changes. Peter wanted to eat at his favourite nearby restaurant, so he took me to (wait for it) TGI Friday's! It wasn't much different than the American version, but it was good to spend time with Peter after all these years. After lunch, we took a walk around Yoyogi Park, which had some nice fountains and walking trails.

Tokyo (7)On Friday night, I attended a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome with three other coaches. South Korea easily defeated Mexico as part of the Global Baseball Battle, which featured the top 12 national teams. We sat in box seats down the left field line with the Mexican fans and pretended to be big fans ourselves.

Tokyo (6)We also went on one of the rides in the amusement park across the street.

Saturday, we went to the TeamLab Borderless - a multimedia museum that features animated projections on walls floors, and ceilings; along with physical objects, music, and uneven floors. It is very much a multi-sensory experience.

Tokyo (8)Saturday evening, I made my way to Akihabara, known as "Electric Town" because of all the electronics shops. I found a tiny hole-in-the-wall curry place and a Japanese comic book shop and walked through the neon jungle that is this neighborhood before I made my way back to my hotel.

Tokyo (9)My final day in Tokyo was a relaxing one. I went for a walk around the Ebiyu neighborhood where I was staying. I visited two nearby museums: The Museum of Yebisu Beer and the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum. There were no English language tours at the beer museum, so I walked around the open area and sampled one of their beers. At the Photographic museum, I saw works by this year's national award-winning photographers. I was surprised to notice that some videos were classified as "photography". I spent less than an hour at each museum before making the long trek to the Narito airport for my journey home.

Most people I encountered spoke very little English - this was fair, given that I know only a handful of Japanese words - but they were very friendly. One woman came running out of a coffee shop I had just exited to return a $5 bill I had dropped inside. Another man went inside a train station with us (costing him at least 100 Yen) to point the directions to the train we needed.

Tokyo is a surprisingly clean city, given its size and population density. One almost never sees litter on the ground, even though there aren't many trash cans. People simply don't drop trash on the ground.

This city is much more beautiful at night, when every building is illuminated, which contrasts dramatically with the plain colors of the daytime. The difference is like night and day.

Tokyo (4)Riding the subway during rush hour can be soul-crushing and body-crushing. People are packed so tight that I struggled to move my arms. During this time, I noticed the other riders seemed to put themselves in a trance - either buried in their cell phones or closing their eyes during the ride. Sometimes it was so crowded that it was impossible to reach or read one's cell phone. On one ride, the train broke down and did not move for 15 minutes; Yet no one complained or even moved.

And the service at my hotel (The Westin Tokyo) was excellent. One example: I regularly sleep with a CPAP machine and I have a pillow at home with a notch where the CPAP mask can rest undisturbed while I sleep. I brought the machine to Tokyo with me and left it by the bed. When I returned to my room in the evening, the hotel staff had provided a notched pillow for me.

Tokyo (2)I am grateful to Raj and Omkar and Lisa and Amanjeet and Lisa for spending time with me outside the OpenHack as we explored Tokyo together.

And I am grateful to Hattan for providing me with recommendations of things to do in Tokyo.

I hope it will not take me another 57 years to return. And I am happy to buy more coffee when I do.

Links

Meiji Jingu shrine

Sensō-ji Temple, Asakusa

Hibiya Park

Yoyogi Park

Baseball game

TeamLab Borderless

Akihabara

Museum of Yebisu Beer

Tokyo Photographic Art Museum

Shibuya Crossing

Sunday, November 24, 2019 3:23:55 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, November 23, 2019

InfiniteJestInfinite Jest by David Foster Wallace takes place in the near future - mostly in and around Boston, MA.

Things are a bit different in the future.

Calendar years are no longer referred to by ordinal numbers; instead, the naming rights to each year is auctioned off to commercial products. Years now go by names such as "Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken", "The Year of the Trial Size Dove Bar", and "Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad". Most of the story takes place during the "The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment".

After contaminating the entire northeastern part of the United States, the US has coerced Canada into annexing the polluted region and using it as an international toxic waste dump. This region is known as "The Great Concavity", probably because of its shape, but possibly because of the frequency of babies born missing a skull.

Canada, Mexico, and the US are now part of a larger nation, known as the Organization of North American Nations, aka "ONAN", which may or may not be a reference to the Bible's most famous masturbator.

The novel follows dozens of characters and multiple story lines. Some are in a private Massachusetts high school that focuses on educating elite tennis players; others are in a nearby drug and alcohol rehabilitation center; still others are involved in international intrigue, espionage, and terrorism.

There is no shortage of quirky characters in Wallace's novel. Most are neurotic and some border on psychotic. Characters are damaged in a variety of ways, from being abused as children to the suicide of loved ones to drug addiction. One beautiful girl had acid thrown in her face by her mother, who was aiming for her philandering father.

They all search for happiness, but not seem to find it.

It's a difficult book to follow for the following reasons

-It is extremely long, has many characters, and many subplots

-It contains hundreds of footnotes and some of the footnotes have footnotes

-It sometimes switches backward and forward in time and even to long descriptions of characters' dreams

Some of the storylines came together; but many did not (or, if they did, I didn't see it). And that frustrated me.

Having said that, I did enjoy Wallace's writing and the characters he created and the imagination he put into individual scenes. But I failed to see the overall arc of the novel.

I'm tempted to read this book again to catch what I missed, but the 1000+ pages makes that a daunting task.

Saturday, November 23, 2019 7:27:05 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, November 18, 2019

Episode 585

Angela Dugan on Team Dynamics

Angela Dugan describes shat she is doing to improve communication and dynamics within her team.

Monday, November 18, 2019 9:38:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, November 15, 2019

HeartIsALonelyHunterThe Heart is A Lonely Hunter - Carson McCullers's debut novel - tells the story of marginalized, working class people in the US south, struggling to survive during the Great Depression.

The novel focuses on five characters:

Mick, a teenage tomboy growing into a young woman, who dreams of escaping to a better life;

Jake, an alcoholic socialist, frustrated by his inability to convince others of the rightness of his opinions

Biff, the saloon owner, who observes everyone, but is close to no one - not even his wife

Dr. Copeland, an idealistic black physician, striving to make life better for his people; but failing to connect with his own family.

John Singer, a deaf mute, whose best friend Spiros Antonapoulos (also a deaf mute) is institutionalized.

The lives of these characters intersect, but they fail to communicate effectively or truly connect with one another. The main characters suffer from common problems, but few try to know one another.

Singer is the glue that holds them together. Everyone feels they can confide with Singer because, despite his inability to hear, they believe he is the only one who understands them and their ideas. He is the only one who makes an effort to understand or to pay attention or to reach out. Ironically, the deaf man is the best listener.

Each considers Singer a friend; but Singer himself counts only Antonapoulos among his friends.

This is a story of loneliness and isolation; of poverty and segregation and institutional racism; of alcoholism and fanaticism.

I loved Mick; I loved Singer; I loved the idea of the other characters, written brilliantly by McCullers.

There are few happy moments in the narrative, and it ends with a domino effect of tragedy as each character loses the one person giving them hope.

But it is not without hope. And the beautiful writing of McCullers gives the novel a depth that kept me engaged throughout.

Friday, November 15, 2019 5:57:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, November 11, 2019

Episode 584

Phil Japikse on .NET Core Support Cycle

Most people are unaware when support expires for each version of .NET Core. Phil Japikse explains the rules and how you can protect yourself.

Monday, November 11, 2019 8:10:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, November 9, 2019

ToTheLighthouseVirginia Woolf divides To the Lighthouse into three distinct parts.

In part 1, the Ramsay family vacations at their summer home on the Isle of Skye. Young James hopes to visit a nearby lighthouse and his father seems to take delight in telling him that the weather will be too rough to make the trip, which disappoints the boy and contradicts his mother's promise.

In part 3, the family returns to their neglected vacation home 10 years later and plan again to visit the lighthouse - this time successfully to the delight of the adult James.

Parts 1 and 3 cover only 1 day each, while the much shorter part 2 covers the 10 years between, in which World War I occurs, children grow up, and several members of the family die.

Very little happens in the two longer chapters: A family conversation; a dinner party; a trip across the bay.

Even the dialogue is sparse: a few words are exchanged, followed by the inner monologue of everyone in the room. Often, they seem to know the thoughts of each other, although they don't always respond to them.    

Woolf writes with an economy of words - both in her dialogue and in her narration; but she somehow provides the reader a glimpse inside her characters.

Mr. Ramsay is cold and stern, yet craves love and validation from his wife.
Mrs. Ramsay tries to balance the emotional needs of her husband and her children.
Spinster Liby, who takes 10 years to complete a painting, plagued by self-doubt and the insults of a misogynistic neighbor

Points of view switch rapidly, which can make the novel difficult to follow.

The novel is filled with symbolism and references to Woolf's own life (her family used to vacation by the sea when she was a girl). Liby emerges from the background of part 1 to be a key figure in part 3. Upon completion of her painting, Liby is a clear stand-in for the author, who struggled to be taken seriously in the early 20th century patriarchy.

Lighthouse as a metaphor. Always there; always available; but the family defers the joy of visiting it until it is too late for some of them.

I deferred the joy of reading this novel long enough.

Saturday, November 9, 2019 9:00:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Yesterday's keynote at Microsoft Ignite was hosted by CEO Satya Nadella, but featured demos and presentations by many others from Microsoft and its partners.

Highlights of the 112-minute keynote were

  • Running Azure services on-premises
  • Azure Synapse: a tool for tracking and reporting on telemetry data
  • Microsoft Edge browser updates
  • Advances in Quantum Computing
  • Power Automate and Power Virtual Agents - 2 new tools for "Citizen Developers"
  • Major update to the Edge browser
  • Project Cortex, a service that makes it easy to find related information from within an application
  • Bing integration with searching internal searching

Personally, I plan to explore Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, and Visual Studio Online first.

You can view a recording of the keynote here.

Below are my notes while watching the keynote:

Azure Stack Edge

Hardware with built-in Azure services

GPUs

Rugged series

Portable

For harsh environments

 

Azure Stack Hub

Azure Stack VI

VMs in Azure

 

Azure Arc

Extend azure services to my datacenter

Access to Azure security

Policies

Geo-replication

Between:

on-premise data

Azure datacenter

AWS

 

Azure Synapse

Telemetry

App metrics

Analytics

Fast query of telemetry data

Integration with PowerBI

 

Autonomous System

Simulation environments

Self-driving vehicles

 

Azure Quantum

Open platform

3 partners

Toolkit

Quantum algorithms can be run on classic hardware

 

Cyber Security

Last year cyber crime cost $1 trillion

Microsoft endpoint manager

Deploy policy to all data and locations

 

Tools

Visual Studio online

In-browser IDE

Existing tools

Intellicode

LiveShare

GitHub

 

Power Platform

"Citizen Developers"

Power Automate

Connectors for business applications

API connectors

Record UI steps

Power Virtual Agents

Language understanding

Uses Bot Framework

 

Customer Insights

Data platform

Pre-built connectors

Aggregated data stored in Azure

Can run analytics with Synapse (see above)

 

Productivity Cloud

Built with M365

Human attention

Microsoft Teams

 

Project Cortex

Converts data inside your organization into knowledge

e.g.,

look up acronym meaning in email

Find experts inside organization on a given topic

Ask contract: when is first payment due?

Voice Enhancement feature

Remove background noise to hear voice more easily

Whiteboards

Detect whiteboard

Make people transparent as they walk in front of white board

Fluid

Connections between applications across devices

 

Microsoft Edge browser update

Chromium browser

Faster

Runs on multiple operating system

Drag and drop pages, images, and metadata on right of browser

Share

Export to Excel

 

Bing

Search internal sites, along with the web

Internal information shown at top of search page (semantic understanding of question and information)

Power BI results output integrated

 

Minecraft Earth

VR

Multiplayer

Tuesday, November 5, 2019 11:58:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, November 4, 2019

Episode 583

Edward Thomson on GitHub Actions

GitHub Actions is a new feature at github.com allowing users to run custom code on GitHub. Edward Thomson describes this feature and how to use it.

Monday, November 4, 2019 8:59:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, November 3, 2019

11/3
Today I am grateful to watch my son's first game as a head coach yesterday at Kalamazoo College.

11/2
Today I am grateful to have no work travel for the past month.

11/1
Today I am grateful for the first snowfall of the winter.

10/31
Today I am grateful to see John Hiatt in concert last night.

10/30
Today I am grateful to attend the Grand Opening of the Chicago Microsoft Technology Center yesterday.

10/29
Today I am grateful to volunteer yesterday for the Hero Box event with my co-workers

10/28
Today I am grateful for all the Trick-or-Treaters who came to my door yesterday.

10/27
Today I am grateful for my new eyeglasses.

10/26
Today I am grateful to get my bike repaired.

10/25
Today I am grateful to see Incognito in concert last night with Thad.

10/24
Today I am grateful for a visit to the Elks National Veterans Memorial in Chicago.

10/23
Today I am grateful for my first visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art yesterday.

10/22
Today I am grateful to see Madonna in concert for the first time.

10/21
Today I am grateful to randomly and unexpectedly meet a former NFL player yesterday.

10/20
Today I am grateful to see Kansas in concert last night and my first visit to the Genesee Theatre.

10/19
Today I am grateful to attend an excellent Willie Nile concert last night.

10/18
Today I am grateful for a nice kitchen in my home.

10/17
Today I am grateful to be able to watch movies at home.

10/16
Today I am grateful for $1 tacos at Flaco's Tacos on Tuesdays.

10/15
Today I am grateful for the hospitality and generosity of Jay and Christina.

10/14
Today I am grateful for 6 years working at Microsoft and all the amazing people I've learned from.

10/13
Today I am grateful to attend my first Vegas Golden Knights game last night.

10/12
Today I am grateful to go to the Henderson, NV Harvest

10/11
Today I am grateful to present at the Las Vegas .NET User Group for the first time.

10/10
Today I am grateful for:
-Everyone who agreed to an interview this week at VSLive.
-Dinner last night with J., Walt, and Jim

10/9
Today I am grateful for lunch yesterday with Tim and Nick.

10/8
Today I am grateful for the memories of good times.

10/7
Today I am grateful to see the US Women's National Soccer Team play Korea yesterday at Soldier Field.

Sunday, November 3, 2019 12:59:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, November 2, 2019

Hiatt-16I love that John Hiatt seems to love performing.

Hiatt is not known for recording hit songs. Bonnie Raitt, Joe Cocker, Three Dog Night and many other artists have reached the charts with covers of his songs.

But Wednesday night at the City Winery, he was on stage performing his own songs to a full house with a smile on his face.

Hiatt-21He didn't have a backing band; He didn't need one. Hiatt accompanied himself on guitar and (sometimes) keyboards and sounded as he sang. His voice still sounds good and still maintains that midwestern twang; and, if he struggles to hit high notes, he does so with passion.

The Indianapolis-born troubadour performed for about 100 minutes and seemed to gain strength and energy as the night went on.

With dozens of albums and hundreds of songs in his catalog, he had plenty to choose from and we heard some of his best, including "Thing Called Love", "Crossing Muddy Waters", "Have a Little Faith in Me" and "Lift Up Every Stone".

He returned to the stage to sing "Memphis in the Meantime" as an encore to a standing ovation.

His joy in playing came across to the audience. And hopefully our joy in listening came across to him.

Saturday, November 2, 2019 8:24:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)