# Friday, July 3, 2020

StemChallengeLast month, I completed a school year working with students at Infinity Math, Science & Technology High School.

The students were participating in the Illinois Science & Technology Institute's STEM challenge and I was one of a group of volunteers helping to mentor them. This year's theme asked students to design projects using Artificial Intelligence. I was impressed by the projects - each of which was designed to help those less fortunate. The three projects delivered were:

Fast Food Sign Language - an application designed to assist deaf people communicating their order at a fast food restaurant

OS-Fruitable - an app designed to help blind people by identify a fruit and its level of spoilage, based on a phone photograph

Pal Protect - a virtual friend device that allows parents to track younger children and for children to call for assistance when needed, while also providing entertainment.

We were supposed to host the school presentations at the Chicago Microsoft office; then select one team to represent the school at the statewide showcase to be held at the Museum of Science and Industry. But the COVID-19 crisis threw a monkey wrench into those plans. So this event was entirely virtual.

It was a pleasure to see the ideas that students came up with to help their communities using AI. And it was a pleasure mentoring high school students for this event the second year in a row.

I am looking forward to next year!

Friday, July 3, 2020 5:14:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 29, 2020

Episode 615

Sven Aelterman on Data in Education

Sven Aelterman is a Cloud Solution Architect and a former IT manager amd professor at a university. He talks about the type of data used by educational institutions, some of the compliance requirements around educational data, and tools used for managing student information.

Monday, June 29, 2020 9:20:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, June 28, 2020

04-AtLadyMollysAnthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time marches into the summer of Nick Jenkins's life with volume 4 in the series - At Lady Molly's.

Nick becomes engaged but relays this information almost as an afterthought as he continues to focus attention on other characters.

The Tolland family figures heavily in this book, as numerous siblings, in-laws, and others pop in and out of the story. It is a large family with some eccentric characters - most especially the patriarch Erridge, who rejects society's expectations and decides to live among the proletariat in order to understand their struggles.

Widmerpool again figures heavily in this story as we learn of his engagement to a much older woman.

Weaved throughout is the story of Mona - a relatively minor character who establishes relationships with major characters, then leaves each for another. She seems to represent the impermanence of the current life of everyone in this intra-war England.

The outside world invades the bohemian and upper-class dinner parties more in  this book than in previous ones as the characters discuss the likelihood of war with Germany and Marxist Quiggin associates with Erridge.

The characters still intrigue me and, with a third of the story behind me, I am committed to continuing this series.

Sunday, June 28, 2020 9:16:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, June 27, 2020

03-TheAcceptanceWorldThe Acceptance World is the third novel in Anthony Powell's epic A Dance to the Music of Time series.

Narrator Nick Jenkins has progressed somewhat in his career and has even written (but not published) a book.

We get a bit of mysticism (a fortune teller and a séance), a bit of politics with Quiggin expressing his Marxist views, and a bit of economics with Widmerpool's long-winded speech on the topic.

And we get numerous marriages and divorces - a sign of the fast times of the Jazz Age in England. But the Jazz Age has passed, and 1930s England is experiencing the upheaval of worldwide economic depression and the spread of new political ideas.

This novel reveals more of Nick than the first two and he finally connects with Jean Templer - sister of his school friend Peter - even though Jean is married to someone else.

The first quarter of the series is now complete. I don't know if Powell planned it this way, but the first three volumes are sometimes referred to as "The First Movement", as if the entire series were a symphony; or as "Spring" to separate Nick's life into four seasons.

Saturday, June 27, 2020 9:21:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 22, 2020

Episode 614

Jeff Fritz on Migrating from Web Forms to Blazor

Blazor allows you to create client-side applications using C#. Jeff Fritz discusses the process of migrating applications based on Web Forms to take advantage of Blazor, without re-writing the entire application. He is building an Open Source project - Blazor Web Forms Components - live on his Twitch channel.

https://github.com/FritzAndFriends/BlazorWebFormsComponents
https://www.twitch.tv/csharpfritz
https://conf.livecoders.dev

Monday, June 22, 2020 9:04:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, June 21, 2020

02-ABuyersMarketBuyer's Market is the second book in Anthony Powell's "A Dance to the Music of Time" series.

Our narrator Nick Jenkins has graduated from university and moved to London where he has a job at a publishing house, a girlfriend named Barbara, and invitations to a lot of parties. He encounters many of the characters introduced in volume 1 (A Question of Upbringing), such as Uncle Giles, Stringham, and Widmerpool; and Powell introduces a few new characters, such as Mr. Deacon, an artist who was a friend of Nick's parents.

Like the first novel, this book explores the changing relationships between Nick and his friends. Only Uncle Giles seems consistent in his behavior as the years pass.

For me, the most interesting character was Widmerpool, who displays and odd combination of social awkwardness and arrogance - a trait I have observed in others; a trait that moves me to both annoyance and pity.

The other plot point that intrigued me was Jenkins's relationship with women. We see his affair with Barbara (presumably his first girlfriend) and his dealings with the rambunctious and sexually liberated Gipsy Jones.

Nick's career has not yet started; his love life is erratically beginning; and his place in the universe. The character development compensates for a minimal story and lead me to volume 3.

Sunday, June 21, 2020 9:45:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, June 20, 2020

01-AQuestionOfUpbringingA Question of Upbringing kicks off Anthony Powell's 12-volume cycle A Dance to the Music of Time.

Nicholas Jenkins narrates the story of his school days in England in the 1920s.

Not much happens in this story. At school, Jenkins hangs out with his two friends - Charles Stringham and Peter Templer. They play a prank on their annoying housemaster and they laugh about their odd classmate Widmerpool. At the end of the term, Jenkins first visits with Templer's family; then spends the summer in France with friends of his family, where he encounters Widmerpool and begins to reassess his opinion of him. When Jenkins returns to school, he finds that he and his friends have drifted apart.

This book stands alone, but it seems incomplete. Each scene seemed disconnected from the others until at least two-thirds through the novel - almost like a collection of short stories.

However, I enjoyed the individual scenes, I enjoyed Powell's prose, and I enjoyed the characters, which I am told will reappear and develop throughout the series.

I am ready for Book 2.

Saturday, June 20, 2020 9:46:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, June 15, 2020

Episode 613

Jason Fox on Spatial Computing

Jason Fox describes the science of Spatial Computing, which allows a computer to become aware of its physical environment; and talks about some practical applications that take advantage of this technology.

https://www.awexr.com/

Monday, June 15, 2020 9:10:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# 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)