# Sunday, June 14, 2020

DogSoldiersJohn Converse was once a successful playwright. But his ideas dried up and he found himself working as a correspondent during the Vietnam War. But, even at this job, inspiration escaped him. So, he decided to smuggle heroin into the United States, enlisting his old friend Ray Hicks to transport the drugs to his wife Marge in California.

Things go terribly wrong. The bad guys learn about the drugs and try to steal them. They threaten Hicks and Marge; then, kidnap Converse. Hicks and Marge go on the run, trying to find a way to sell their product and escape their pursuers.

Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone is a thriller with a suspenseful buildup and an exciting climax. But it is also a commentary on the cynicism that swept America after the idealism of the 1960s counterculture. American soldiers are selling narcotics, cops are corrupt, and young people are bored with LSD and trying more dangerous drugs.

Stone intersperses the action with philosophical musings via the inner dialogue of each character. There are moments of humor, of reflection, and of fear.

The thoughts of one character as he slowly dies while trying to escape through the desert is particularly poignant.

Dog Soldiers won the 1975 National Book Award. It is not a classic, but it is an exciting and well-written novel, with enough ideas to exercise your brain.

Sunday, June 14, 2020 8:19:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, June 13, 2020

BridgeOfSanLuisReyIn 18th century Peru, Brother Juniper was out for a walk when he witnessed the bridge collapse, sending 5 people plunging to their death in chasm below. Why these people?, he wondered. Was there something about them that destined them for this tragic end? Was their death random chance or part of a divine plan? Why was I spared?

"Some say that we shall never know and that to the gods we are like the flies that the boys kill on a summer day, and some say, on the contrary, that the very sparrows do not lose a feather that has not been brushed away by the finger of God."

He spent years investigating - to learn about the five victims.

  • Marquesa de Montemayor was a mother mourning the damaged relationship with her daughter. She and her orphaned companion Pepita were returning from praying for the daughter at a nearby shrine.
  • Esteban was on his way to serve on a sailing vessel to help him heal from the death of his twin brother and to earn money for a gift for the Abbess who cared for the boys when they were young.
  • Uncle Pio had just begun to reconcile with his estranged niece and was on his way to Lima with her son Don Jaime.

There are no heroes or villains here - just people living their lives and loving one another and fighting one another. The three sets of victims did not know one another, but their lives were connected through their interactions with others.

The lives of the five people yield no clue as to why they were selected for death on this day and no clarity on God's plan.
Brother Juniper is ultimately punished for even asking his questions.

Thornton Wilder's The Bridge of San Luis Rey is a brief, simple story that brings the reader into the interconnected lives of the characters. We see how they struggle with loss and how they deal with grief. We witness the cruelty of the world as events beyond their control affect their lives.

It is this and the beauty and subtlety of Wilder's prose that won this novel the 1928 Pulitzer Prize.

The book does not answer Brother Juniper's questions about God's plan, but it does offer a message on the meaning of life:

"Soon we will die, and every memory of those five will disappear from the earth, and we ourselves will be loved for a short time, and then forgotten. But love will have sufficed; all those motions of love return to the Love that created them. Not even memory is necessary to love. There is a world of the living and a world of the dead, and the bridge is love, only survival, the only meaning"

Saturday, June 13, 2020 9:54:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 8, 2020

Episode 612

Troy Hunt on The Role of Technology in Social Isolation

The COVID-19 pandemic and responses to it have affected many aspects of our lives. Troy Hunt discusses how technology and technologists have adapted to this.

Links:

https://haveibeenpwned.com/

https://www.troyhunt.com/

Monday, June 8, 2020 9:41:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, June 7, 2020

6/7
Today I am grateful for:
-Attending the St. Joseph Farmers Market for the first time
-My first visit to Grand Mere State Park in Stevensville
-A backyard BBQ and bonfire in Three Oaks last night

6/6
Today I am grateful to watch the sun set over Lake Michigan last night.

6/5
Today I am grateful for open-minded people.

6/4
Today I am grateful for those who make an effort to bring people together.

6/3
Today I am grateful to those who are peacefully protesting against injustice.

6/1
Today I am grateful that the violence and vandalism in Chicago and other cities the past few days has mostly spared my neighborhood.

5/31
Today I am grateful for a day in Three Oaks, MI with Emilija Dinah, and Patrick.

5/30
Today I am grateful to finally receive my replacement driver's license.

5/29
Today I am grateful for my new spiralizer.

5/28
Today I am grateful for the Illinois STEM challenge and an opportunity to serve as a mentor this year.

5/27
Today I am grateful
-to Yev for taking the time to explain some Java concepts to me yesterday
-to cash in hundreds of dollars of Bing Rewards for Amazon gift cards.

5/26
Today I am grateful for
-a 5-day weekend
-my first visit to Washington Park

5/25
Today I am grateful to all the men and women who gave their life protecting my country.

5/24
Today I am grateful that my ice maker, which has been broken for weeks, is now fixed.

5/23
Today I am grateful for
-my first visit to Riverbank Neighbors Park
-a food truck selling tasty pierogis in Ukrainian Village

5/22
Today I am grateful for all the beautiful parks in my city. ‬

5/21
Today I am grateful for 2 bonus vacation days.

5/20
Today I am grateful for my first visit to Humboldt Park - a large beautiful park in the city.

5/19
Today I am grateful to complete a required company certification - a process I began months ago.

5/18
Today I am grateful for kind words from a customer after my team and I presented what we had been working on.

5/17
Today I am grateful for online Mass

5/16
Today I am grateful I've been able to keep up a daily exercise routine during this lockdown.

5/15
Today I am grateful for new tires on my bike.

5/14
Today I am grateful I was able to help my son file his taxes last night.

5/13
Today I am grateful to the organizers of DevAroundTheSun, who help the tech community and to raise money to fight COVID-19.

#devaroundthesun

5/12
Today I am grateful to sort, catalog, and/or dispose of all these old hard drives.

5/11
Today I am grateful to all the mothers who love their children and make them a priority in their lives.

5/10
Today I am grateful for a walk along the Fox River in Batavia yesterday.

5/9
Today I am grateful for Indian food.

5/8
Today I am grateful for good health.

5/7
Today I am grateful to those with the courage to speak truth to power.

5/6
Today I am grateful for tacos.

5/5
Today I am grateful for social media, which helps me stay in touch with friends during this lockdown.

5/4
Today I am grateful to spend much of this past weekend reading for pleasure.

Sunday, June 7, 2020 2:39:15 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, June 6, 2020

MoneyJohn Self is a successful director of advertising commercials, getting ready to direct his first feature film. He has a seemingly limitless budget for this film and is promised a huge salary. The Englishman travels from his London home to New York and back multiple times, consuming physical pleasures along the way.

Martin Amis's novel Money -sometimes titled Money: A Suicide Note- tells Self's story.

John leads a life of hedonism and debauchery, gliding from booze to porn to drugs to prostitutes to bar fights to masturbation to his girlfriend. And, despite his recent directing contract, he has trouble with money.

Most of his problems are Self-inflicted. He is an overweight drunk and a sex addict and a misogynist and is sometimes violent and he is extremely careless with money. Here are some examples of John's philosophy:

"The first thing I wonder about a woman is: Will I f*ck it? Similarly, the first thing I wonder about a man is: Will I fight it?"

"I disclaim responsibility for many of my thoughts. They don't come from me. They come from these squatters and hobos who hang out in my head"

But John is also a victim.

He suffers from a severe toothache and from tinnitus. When he came into money, his father presented him with a bill for the cost of his upbringing; his gold-digging girlfriend is unfaithful and is spending his savings; each of the film's actors pressures him to radically alter the movie's script in order to satisfy their ego; Self has a mysterious enemy, who calls him to harass and threaten him and seems to know everything about his life. And there are other forces conspiring against Self of which he is unaware until the end of the novel.

Amis does a good job building a character that is at once abhorrent and sympathetic. John Self is clever, but unlikeable. His first-person narrative is the stream of consciousness made popular by writers like Henry Miller, Vladimir Nabokov, Malcolm Lowry, and Jack Kerouak. And Self's path to self-destruction is not unlike the narrators of "Tropic of Cancer", "Lolita", "Under the Volcano", and "On the Road".

And the author's ability to take a complex, unlikely story filled with hyperbole and make it seem plausible is admirable, as is the humor with which he tells this story. Amis even inserts himself into the book, as the arrogant writer that John approaches to rewrite his screenplay. He may add himself as a character to convince the reader that he is not the vulgar anti-hero narrator.

It helped that I listened to the audiobook, which was expertly narrated by Graeme Malcom, who reminds me very much of Michael Caine

Money is a commentary on the excess consumerism of the 1980s; but it will remain relevant as long as humans value money over other aspects of their life.

Saturday, June 6, 2020 9:24:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, June 4, 2020

GCast 87:

Logging to Azure Application Insights from a Java Spring Boot Application

With a few configuration settings, you can push your logs from a Java Spring Boot application into Azure Application Insights - even if the app is not running in Azure!

Azure | GCast | Java | Screencast | Video
Thursday, June 4, 2020 3:54:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Wednesday, June 3, 2020

When working with Git, I find myself frequently typing “git status” - a useful command that shows me on which branch I am working and the number of uncommitted files that have been changed, added, and deleted. An example is shown in Fig. 1:

gp01-gitstatus
Fig. 1

As you can see, I am working on the "dgiard/posh-git-demo" branch, I have added 1 file, deleted 1 file, and changed 1 file since my last commit.

But what if I could always see this information? What if was appended to the command line, so I never had to type "git status"?

The posh-git tool provides exactly this functionality.

To install posh-git, run Windows PowerShell as an administrator.

At the PowerShell command prompt, enter  

PowerShellGet\Install-Module posh-git

and press "Y" when prompted for confirmation.

Then, enter the command 

import-module posh-git

Your command prompt will change to something like the one shown in Fig. 2.

gp02-gitposhPsPrompt
Fig. 2

Notice the text in square brackets after the path. It lists the current branch no which I am working, followed by the number of files I have added, changed, or deleted (if any) since my last commit. The red text, indicates these changes not been added to my git rep repository. If I issue a "git add", the text will change to green to indicate they are ready to commit, as shown in Fig. 3.

gp03-added
Fig. 3

After I commit the files, I only see my current branch and no uncommitted files, as shown in Fig. 4.

gp04-commit
Fig. 4

Of course, I can get more details by typing "git status"; but most of the time, this is all the information I need.


Thank you to Hattan for showing me this tool.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020 3:31:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 1, 2020

Episode 611

Nik Molnar on Visual Studio Codespaces

Visual Studio Codespaces (formerly Visual Studio Online) is a cloud-based development environment that you can connect to from Visual Studio Code, within a browser, and from Visual Studio (in private preview). PM Nik Molnar describes the capabilities and how it works.

Links:

https://online.visualstudio.com/

https://github.com/nikmd23/ballpark-tracker

Monday, June 1, 2020 9:01:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, May 31, 2020

SpyWhoCameInFromTheColdIt is the early 1960s at the height of the Cold War. Alec Leamas is the Berlin Station Head for the British Intelligence agency known as the "The Circus". Operations in Berlin have not gone well and Leamas is taking the blame.

When Leamas returns to England, the Circus chief - who goes by the name "Control" - gives him a new assignment. Leamas is told to pretend to leave The Circus under bad circumstances and lead a life of isolation, alcohol, debt, and bitterness. The Circus even circulates rumours of incompetence and embezzlement to make his despair more convincing. Sure enough, an agent of the Eastern Bloc approaches Leamas after he` is released from jail on an assault conviction.

Leamas defects to the other side and sows suspicion amongst his enemies. But is Leamas the manipulator or is he the one being manipulated?

John Le Carré is a master at building suspense. For a novel with very little action (much of it is interrogation), I found myself riveted to "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" - anxious to know what will happen next. He kept me guessing until the end - pointing the reader in one direction, before pulling back the curtain to reveal a new twist.

On the surface, this is a complex spy novel with espionage and double agents and double-crossings and triple-crossings.

But there is a subtext to this novel that elevates it from good to great. The Communists of the East and the Democracies of the West each hold to ideals that they believe are best for their society. Yet, the agents protecting these societies are willing to completely ignore those ideals to protect their societies. To them, values are meaningless when a war must be won. To protect the interests of the state, bad guys are protected, and idealists are destroyed. England may believe in democracy for its citizens, but The Circus will abandon all national principles to win the Cold War. Leamas has become almost numb to this hypocrisy. He strives to ignore the moral issues and just do his job. If it were not for the love story, he would have succeeded.

Sunday, May 31, 2020 9:20:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, May 30, 2020

SandmanLong ago, in an isolated temple in the mountains near Kyoto, a magical fox falls in love with a monk. When the monk's life is threatened by a powerful rich man and his hired demons, the monk and the fox must choose whether to sacrifice themselves for the other.

They seek the help of Morpheus, the King of All Night's Dreaming - a character introduced in Gaiman's popular Sandman comic series.

Sandman: The Dream Hunters is a novella written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano. Amano is famous for his work on anime projects video games and he adds depth to this story with beautiful watercolor and charcoal images.

This is a simple fairy tale, with the feel of Japanese folklore. It does not add much to the Sandman legend, as Morpheus is a peripheral character here, but he helps to tie the story together with his advice and philosophy.

Immediately after reading this novella, I read P Craig Russell’s comic adaptation, which was a simplified version of the same story and also worthwhile.

The Dream Hunters is a beautiful tragic love story, told with Gaiman's lyrical charm.

Saturday, May 30, 2020 9:54:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)