# Sunday, August 9, 2020

Frank Bascombe is drifting through life and telling us about it as he goes through it.

He wrote one popular short story collection, then tried unsuccessfully to write a novel. He taught at a small college but succeeded only in seducing an emotionless Muslim grad student before quitting just short of one semester. Ultimately, he took a job as a sportswriter because it required little effort, involvement, or commitment on his part.

His existential crisis began with the death of his young son, which prompted him to quit his novel and embark on a series of one-night stands while traveling away from his wife. His marriage ended when his wife discovered letters from another woman, prompting her to burn the contents of her hope chest. Frank does not bother to tell his wife that he never slept with or even kissed the woman in the letters. He accepts her judgement and their divorce.

Except for an occasional flashback, Richard Ford's 1986 novel The Sportswriter, is told in the first person and in the present tense. This emphasizes to the reader that we are inside Frank's head, experiencing his thoughts and actions as he does. It is primarily a stream-of-consciousness story and it works.

It works because, although Bascombe is without direction, he is very much self-aware. He accepts his limitations and makes no effort to stretch himself beyond them. He understands his weaknesses - he just is not motivated to correct them. The story often reads like a confession. Frank does not even like sports or people, although his job is to write about both. And he continues with it because he is good at it. It is the path of least resistance.
   
Frank has no friends. He does not need or want them. He even keeps his young, beautiful, sexy girlfriend at an emotional arm's length; but people confide him - probably because they see him as non-judgmental, although this may be the result of him thinking of other things when pretending to listen to their problems. One casual acquaintance considers Frank his best friend and writes him a letter just before committing suicide.

Ford does an excellent job of building a flawed, yet sympathetic character. I saw many of my own flaws in Bascombe. Although I constantly try to rise above mediocrity, I find that this is often a struggle against my own complacency. The easier path is easier and always tempting. 

Sunday, August 9, 2020 9:33:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, August 8, 2020

John Cheever's "Falconer" is the story of Zeke Farragut was a university professor convicted of killing his brother and sentenced to serve time at Falconer State Prison.

The book explores life inside a prison and the society that persists there. It is not about the brutality of prison - a theme of so many other novels; rather it is about the  prisoners' relationships with the guards and with one another. Men come to Farragut and tell them about themselves - often confessing a great deal.

We also learn a lot about Farragut himself. We perceive that he is an educated man by the language of three letters he writes. Farragut is a former heroin addict and a current methadone addict, and we learn what led to his addiction. We learn about his failing marriage and his current relationship with his wife. And despite having a wife on the outside, Farragut begins a sexual and romantic relationship with another male prisoner. Interestingly, we do not learn the details of his crime until the end of the novel.

This delving into the mind of the protagonist gives the story a very personal feel, making one forget that it is written in the third person.

As a psychological analysis, Cheever's novel is brilliant. It goes beyond a story of crime and punishment and incarceration. It is the story of a man and how he feels and how he copes.

Saturday, August 8, 2020 9:18:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, August 6, 2020

GCast 90:

Basic Error Handling in a Spring Boot Web Service

Learn how to handle errors in a Spring Boot application.

GCast | Java | Screencast | Video | Web
Thursday, August 6, 2020 9:41:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 3, 2020

Episode 620

Tibi Covaci on Creating a GitHub Action

Tibi Covaci talks about a custom GitHub action that he created to deploy a node.js application to Azure. He describes some of the challenges he encountered and how he was able to overcome them.

Monday, August 3, 2020 8:02:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, August 2, 2020

8/2
Today I am grateful to visit the world's largest coffee house yesterday.

8/1
Today I am grateful to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation yesterday for the first time in longer than I care to admit.

7/31
Today I am grateful for a walk around Winnetka, IL and Loyola University-Chicago yesterday.

7/30
Today I am grateful for my bicycle.

7/29
Today I am grateful for frictionless Amazon returns.

7/28
Today I am grateful for my first visit to Northerly Island this summer.

7/27
Today I am grateful I finally found the time this weekend to record some screencasts of some of the things I've learned the past few months.

7/26
Today I am grateful for my new alarm clock.

7/25
Today I am grateful for a bike ride yesterday along The 606 - an elevated trail in northwest Chicago.

7/24
Today I am grateful for 2 days in west Michigan.

7/23
Today I am grateful for walks yesterday around South Haven, Holland, and Three Oaks.

7/22
Today I am grateful for a walk along Silver Beach in St. Joseph, MI last night.

7/21
Today I am grateful for a hot bath to relieve stress.

7/20
Today I am grateful that my brother is out of the hospital after checking in almost a week ago and being diagnosed with blood clots and respiratory issues due to COVID-19.

7/19
Today I am grateful to attend a Chicago Dogs baseball game last night.

7/18
Today I am grateful to complete Anthony Powell's epic 12-volume, 3000-page, 50-year series "A Dance to the Music of Time"

7/17
Today I am grateful to those who took the time to document history.

7/16
Today I am grateful for dinner by the river in Milwaukee last night before the skies opened up.

7/15
Today I am grateful for my longest ride of the year (so far)

7/14
Today I am grateful that the pain in my ankle has subsided.

7/13
Today I am grateful to live in a city that remembers its history.

7/12
Today I am grateful:
-to attend the South Loop Gathering for Unity, Peace, and Love yesterday
-for a final drink at the Scout Waterhouse & Kitchen before they close for good

7/11
Today I am grateful for a walk around Highland Park, IL yesterday.

7/10
Today I am grateful to sit on my balcony last night and watch the city on a warm summer evening.

7/9
Today I am grateful for a new case for my phone.

7/8
Today I am grateful for dinner with Emilija last night.

7/7
Today I am grateful for my new phone case.

7/6
Today I am grateful for a new rug in my office.

7/5
Today I am grateful to watch fireworks from my balcony last night.

Sunday, August 2, 2020 1:42:27 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, August 1, 2020

12-HearingSecretHarmoniesAfter 12 volumes, Anthony Powell concludes his epic series A Dance to the Music of Time with Hearing Secret Harmonies.

It is the late 1960s. We meet Fiona - the niece of narrator Nick Jenkins, along with some of the members of the cult to which she belongs, including its creepy and charismatic leader Scorpio Murtlock. We will see more of them later in the story.

Much of this series has dealt with Kenneth Widmerpool - a former classmate of narrator Nick Jenkins - who has risen to power through blind ambition; so, it is fitting that the final volume focuses much of its energies on his last days. Widmerpool is now an old man losing some of his cognitive abilities. He now rejects bourgeois society, embraces the counterculture, has joined Murtlock's cult, and is striving for humility. He is regretting some of his past actions - possibly as a result of his wife's suicide in the previous novel. Part of the old Widmerpool remains, as he challenges Murtlock for control of the cult.

A few other old characters return - some only peripherally:

  • American writer Russell Gwinnett is presented the Magnus Donners Memorial Prize for his biography of the late X Trapnel.
  • Sir Magnus's widow Matilda oversees the award and a wedding later takes place at their former castle.
  • The teenage twin daughters of J.G. Quiggin become frequent companions of Widmerpool
  • One character appears whom Jenkins met briefly at a college party in Book 1 and has not seen in the decades since.
  • Bithel - a WWII comrade of Jenkins's, whom Widmerpool had kicked out of the army for drunkenness - is now an old man and a member of this same cult.

The cult attempts to raise from the dead Dr. Trelawney, who led a cult in earlier Time novels.

In a series not known for plot twists or cliffhangers, this final novel does a good job of wrapping up the story.

This series as a whole exceeds the quality of any individual novels.

Reading A Dance to the Music of Time has been an amazing journey and I am happy to complete that journey.

   

Saturday, August 1, 2020 9:05:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, July 30, 2020

GCast 89:

HTTP Request and Response Headers in a Spring Boot Application

Learn how to read headers from an HTTP Request and write them to an HTTP Response.

GCast | Java | Screencast | Video | Web
Thursday, July 30, 2020 9:52:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 27, 2020

Episode 619

Mete Atamel on Serverless Containers

Google Cloud Developer Advocate Mete Atamel describes some of the tools for managing serverless containers in the cloud. He discusses the advantages of K Native, Tekton pipelines, Build Packs, and Cloud Run.

Links:

https://knative.dev/

https://cloud.google.com/tekton/

https://buildpacks.io/

https://atamel.dev/

https://cloud.google.com/run/

Monday, July 27, 2020 9:03:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, July 26, 2020

11-TemporaryKingsTemporary Kings is the penultimate book in Anthony Powell's epic 12-volume series A Dance to the Music of Time and covers the end of the 1950s - 10 years after the preceding novel - Books Do Furnish a Room.

Book 10 introduced - then killed off writer X. Trapnel. But he lives on in "Kings". Two new characters - both American - want to tell his life story. Scholar Russell Gwinnett is researching a biography of X; and film producer Louis Glober wants to make a movie about X's life.    

Narrator Nick Jenkins and those around him are getting older and some pass on, but those who survive retain and evolve their core personalities. One character observes that "...growing old’s like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed."

The Widmerpools return. After losing re-election to the House of Commons, Kenneth is granted a Lordship to continue his social ascendency. But he is still married to the awful Pamela, who becomes even more terrible than she has in the past. Kenneth is accused of spying and Pamela is accused of killing her lover and these accusations are addressed in a rant by Pamela near the end of the story.

The revelations near the end are atypical of this series, which heretofore tended to favor character development over plot twists. The latter events are foreshadowed by a painting observed earlier in the novel.

Thanks largely to the ending, this was one of the more entertaining books in the series.

Sunday, July 26, 2020 9:14:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, July 25, 2020

10-BooksDoFurnishARoomWorld War II has come to an end and Nick Jenkins, the narrator of Anthony Powell's 12-volume A Dance to the Music of Time has taken a job in a publishing house and is writing a biography. Goods are scarce and the nation is tired, but everyone is moving forward with their lives.

Books Do Furnish a Room begins the final trilogy/season/movement of the series.

The ambitious, but insufferable Kenneth Widmerpool has been elected to the House of Lords, which should make him happy; but, as expected, his marriage to femme fatale Pamela Flitton presents many personal difficulties.

This book is mostly about Pamela and the newly-introduced X. Trapnel - an enigmatic author, who becomes infatuated and entangled with Pamela - again with predictably disastrous consequences. Pamela is cruel and manipulative and unfeeling and fascinating. She draws men to her and poisons them, before leaving them damaged.

As always, Powell does an excellent job at building characters and evolving them as they age.

Saturday, July 25, 2020 9:48:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)