# Monday, October 26, 2020

Episode 632

Magnus Martensson on the Cloud Adoption Framework

Magnus Martensson on the Cloud Adoption Framework Magnus Martensson describes the Cloud Adoption Framework - a collective set of guidance from Microsoft - and how you can use it to migrate or create applications in the cloud.

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/cloud-adoption-framework

Monday, October 26, 2020 8:13:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, October 25, 2020

At any given time, we all have many things to do. We cannot do them all at once, so we must prioritize them. And we must keep track of them. Most of us keep track in our minds, which forces us to spend mental energy on something other than actually performing these actions.

In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen provides a system for organizing what need to do and accomplishing more. Allen's "GTD" methodology focuses on productivity and remove stress by focusing on things that are important and accomplishing those tasks.

His technique is straightforward.

Distinguish between projects and actions. Projects consist of a list of actions. We perform actions; not projects we perform actions, so identify the actions necessary to complete each project - particularly the very next action you need to perform.

Record these projects and actions in a safe place that you can refer to often. This may be paper or computer files or a software application. This gives you a way to always know what you should be working on and frees you from stressing about them.

Most people keep their list of action items in their head or in an amorphous storage mixed in with other things. This adds unnecessary mental work every time we look at the list.

Allen advocates keeping a "Mind like water", meaning we should focus exclusively on the task at hand.

Allen focuses more on the individual actions in our lives than on long- and medium-term goals; but he does advocate documenting these, as they drive our projects and our actions. A periodic review of our projects and goals is important to ensure we are staying on track.

Here is a key diagram presented in the book to assist you while going through your inbox and determining how to handle each item.

GTD-Flowchart

This was my second reading of David Allen's "Getting Things Done" and my first reading of the current edition, which includes references to some software that can help. Allen tends to favor low-tech approaches, such as recording and organizing with paper, pen, and folders, but he leaves the choice of systems to the reader.

As an obsessive list maker, I was already using many of Allen's techniques, but his process added some clarity to how I should approach my organization.

My life is less stressful in part because of the practices I have adopted from this book.

Sunday, October 25, 2020 2:30:27 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Swiftly Tilting Planet is the third book in Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet, which follows the adventures of the Murray family. Ten years have passed since book 2's events and Meg is now married to Calvin and expecting their first child. Calvin's mother Branwen visits the Murray family for Thanksgiving, which is interrupted when the US president phones Meg's scientist father to inform him of an impending nuclear war threatened by the South American dictator "Mad Dog" Branzillo.

As in the previous two novels, the family seeks to avert the coming disaster and is assisted by an angelic figure - a winged unicorn named Gaudior in this story. But, while "A Wrinkle in Time" and "A Wind in the Door" dealt with time as a separate dimension, rather than a forward-only vector, this book introduces actual time travel. Meg's genius brother Charles Wallace and Gaudior travel back in time to discover the origins of Mad Dog and attempt to alter history and avert war.

This is a clever adventure story that kept me enthralled. It was nice to see Charles Wallace take a more active role, rather than being the child who must be rescued. Meg remains in the present but communicates telepathically with her brother across the centuries. The story spans hundreds of years, but is tied together by the familial relationship between the characters encountered by Gaudior and CW.  The only weakness was the transparent name games that the author played, which were too easy for the reader to figure out, even though it took genius Charles Wallace more than half the book to get it.

I look forward to volume 4.

Saturday, October 24, 2020 9:49:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, October 19, 2020

Episode 631

Gary Short on The Mathematics of Covid19 & the Hero You've Never Heard Of

Gary Short teaches about the work of 19th century medical statistician William Farr, who pioneered the idea of recording cause of death, which allowed us to compile mortality rates. Gary discusses how Farr's ideas are used today as we draw meaningful information by analyzing the COVID-19 data and the challenges in analyzing that data.

Monday, October 19, 2020 9:08:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, October 18, 2020

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle was one of my favourite books when I was a boy; and I enjoyed re-reading it a couple years ago. But I had no idea that L'Engle wrote a sequel. In fact, she wrote a total of five books featuring this family, which are collectively known as the "Time Quintet".

A Wind in the Door is the second book in the series. Meg is in high school and her brother Charles Wallace - a child prodigy whose intelligence borders on superhuman capabilities - is bullied at school because he is so different from his small-town classmates.

Meg and Charles's mother is studying farandolae - theoretical components of the mitochondria of human cells that are too small to be seen by any microscope. Charles Wallace is losing his farandolae and Meg shrinks down to go inside Charles's body and battle the evil forces that are attacking him in an effort to destroy everything in the universe. Meg is accompanied by her high school principal and assisted by an alien creature. During their ordeal, the team discovers that the farandolae are sentient creatures and that their destruction is engineered by the evil Echthroi, who are determined to bring chaos to the universe.

As with "Wrinkle", this book features an angelic creature who aids the children and a malevolent force bent on destroying the universe. In this case, the angelic creature is a many-eyed, many-winged monstrosity that resembles a group of dragons and the demonic race is the Echthroi.

While lacking the scope of the series’ first novel, this book does an excellent job of relating cosmic turmoil with personal struggles. The potential destruction of everything is reflected in the battle to save Charles. L'Engle combines the excitement of fantasy and science fiction with the normalcy of family life and the power of love in both contexts.

Sunday, October 18, 2020 9:43:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, October 17, 2020

Beloved by Toni Morrison is a ghost story. But the haunting is far from the most disturbing part of this book.

Eighteen years ago, Sethe and her children escaped the Kentucky plantation "Sweet Home" to find refuge in Cincinnati at the home of her mother-in-law Baby Suggs. Now, the Civil War is over, Baby Sugs has died, Sethe's two sons have run away, and the house is occupied by Sethe, her daughter Denver, and the ghost of her dead 2-year-old daughter known only as "Beloved".

The townsfolk shun the house - known only by the partial address of "124". Presumably, they avoid 124 because of their fear of the ghost within; but, as the story unfolds, we learn of the tragic secret that drove a wedge between Sethe and the local community.

The novel is filled with symbolism, such as the four horsemen arriving to re-capture escaped slaves; and the incomplete street address - a nod to the incomplete lives of former slaves; and the tree-shaped scars on Sethe's back, which mirror the emotional scars on her soul.

But Morrison deals explicitly with many issues - particularly the dehumanizing aspects of slavery. Families were separated permanently; people were stripped of their names (most of the male slaves at Sweet Home were named "Paul"); beatings were common; negroes were compared to animals; and sexual assault went unpunished. For some, death was preferable to a life of slavery.

This was my second reading of Beloved and I am glad I returned to it, even after 20 years. The story is sometimes difficult to follow as it includes numerous shifts in time and perspective. Much of the book reads more like poetry than prose, forcing the reader to approach each chapter deliberately and more slowly than most novels.

But the extra effort pays off in this beautiful and tragic story.

Saturday, October 17, 2020 8:07:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Friday, October 16, 2020

NoMi04Saturday, I drove 7 hours from Chicago to Harbor Springs, MI and arrived a couple hours before nightfall, so my friend Pat met me and we went hiking through the nature preserve across the street from my Bed & Breakfast. Afterward, Pat drove me around Harbor Springs before we had dinner on the back patio of a local restaurant.

Pat and his wife Susan retired and moved up to Petoskey from Lansing (after a brief stay in nearby Pellston)

I brought my bike with me, but Sunday was too cold and wet for biking, so the three of us hiked area trails and explored the region. We traveled as far north as Sturgeon Bay.

On Monday, Karen joined us for a 20-mile ride along the trails that wind through the area lakes. Pat is a volunteer Trail Ambassador for the local Trails Council, which means he rides around providing to tourists information on the local biking trails. He knows where the good biking is.

NoMi05Tuesday morning, I drove up to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Immediately after crossing the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula, my thoughts turned toward pasties. A pasty is a meat and vegetable pie introduced to this area by copper miners immigrating centuries ago from Cornwall, England. I had to stop at multiple places before I found one where the wait was less than a half hour. It was worth the effort. Few foods are as hearty as a UP Cornish Pasty.

From St. Ignace, I drove almost straight north as far as it was possible to drive.

NoMi01Whitefish Point juts out into Lake Superior at the entrance to Whitefish Bay (across from Sault Ste Marie) and is the site of hundreds of shipwrecks, including the famous Edmund Fitzgerald. Here, I got my first look at Lake Superior and toured the oldest operational lighthouse on the Lake. I bought a ticket to tour the lighthouse and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum. After my tour, I headed south to Paradise, MI to enjoy a cheeseburger in Paradise before driving west to spend the afternoon at Tahquamenon Falls State Park. The park contains a series of beautiful waterfalls along the Tahquamenon River.

NoMi02I spent Tuesday night in Munising near Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. I had hoped to take a boat cruise along the coast, but rough water forced the cancellation of all Wednesday cruises, so I drove and hiked through the park and along the shore. This park features a number of beautiful waterfalls and rock formations.

The day ended with a drive to Marquette. The highlight of this part of my journey was walking around Presque Isle State Park - a peninsula that extends into Lake Superior, providing gorgeous views of the water and nearby islands.

NoMi03My final night was spent in Iron Mountain. In Iron Mountain, I walked around several area lakes, including a 7-mile hike around Lake Fumee. I was happy to see almost no one during my 2-hour trek. Next time, I will take my bike on this trail, which is unpaved but flat and well-maintained.

A few miles inland and all around the UP, the colors have begun to change as the leaves on the trees lose their bright green color in favor yellow, orange, and red, as if the forests were enveloped in a heatless flame. The effect is so stunning that many people downstate plan their weekend getaways just to drive "up north" and see "the colors" in the fall.

I brought my bike on this journey, but only rode one day thanks to uncertain weather and the rough ground where I ended up. I did manage to see multiple amazing sunsets. The west coast of Michigan is deservedly famous for sunsets over the lake.

This was my first vacation of 2020, so it was long overdue. It convinced me I need to do a better job of disconnecting from my job and being spontaneous.

Links:

More photos

Top of Michigan Trails Council

Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum

Tahquamenon Falls

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Friday, October 16, 2020 9:05:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, October 12, 2020

Episode 630

Heather Downing on Developer Burnout

Developers can become burned out and the recent pandemic can make this even more prevalent. Heather Downing talks about the symptoms of developer burnout, how to recognize it, and how to deal with it.

https://twitter.com/quorralyne

Monday, October 12, 2020 9:53:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, October 11, 2020

The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss claims that you can earn more by working 4 hours per week than you currently make working 40 hours. I don't know about that, but the book does contain some good advice to use your time more efficiently.

A good chunk of this book focuses on starting and running your own business. Ferriss covers delegation of authority, marketing strategies, distribution options, and setting prices.  I am not really interest in starting a business, but I still got some useful information from the book.

I most liked his discussions on time management and how to free up your schedule by being deliberate about how you spend your time. 

Her is some of Mr. Ferriss's professional advice:
-Check email less frequently and at set times during the day. Never first thing in the morning.
-Avoid meetings. Ask for the notes instead.
-Eliminate those tasks that are unimportant and/or unproductive
-Delegate tasks you cannot eliminate. You can outsource many of these tasks for a small fee.
-Reduce interruptions. Require a clear agenda before meeting with someone
-Let everyone know you are very busy (even if you are not)
-Use autoreplies and FAQs to respond to questions

He also includes some advice about life beyond business
-Don't defer your rewards until you retire. Instead, take "mini-retirements" several times a year to enjoy life.
-When your work week reduces to 4 hours, fill your time with something fulfilling
-Define your goals. Do you want to be a millionaire, or do you want to live a millionaire lifestyle?

This book has its flaws. It is padded with testimonials (labeled as case studies) and Ferriss comes across as arrogant.

Some of the material here is out of date. Is Yahoo really the best place to launch an online store? Many of now the communication services he recommends are now available free from cell phone providers. Some of the companies and services he recommends no longer exist. But he maintains an active blog to address these changes.

I don't buy into the goal of the title. I don't aspire to work only 4 hours per day, so I don't set that as a realistic goal. But I did find enough useful information in this book to make it worthwhile.

The single biggest impact the book had on me came about halfway through reading it: I set it down and scheduled a vacation for next week!

Sunday, October 11, 2020 9:35:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, October 10, 2020

I was in high school when I first read J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye - about the same age as the narrator Holden Caufield.

I did not have much in common with Caufield. I have never attended or even visited a private boarding school, much less been kicked out of several as Holden had. At 15 or 16, I did not have the cash necessary to hide and entertain myself in Manhattan for three days. And I did not have the nerve to strike up conversations with strangers or attempt to buy liquor in a bar or hire a prostitute.

But something about Holden's inner monologue resonated with me.  He felt alone in the world - disconnected from his surroundings. He wavered between feelings of superiority over the phonies in his life and inadequacy due to his own failings. He was intelligent, but unfocused - a classic underachiever.

Holden is an extrovert. He craves the company of others and has no trouble approaching strangers. But he is self-destructive and manages to destroy nearly every relationship in his life. Rude to nearly everyone - sometimes flying into a rage at the slightest provocation. Although his observations are often profound, their legitimacy is damaged by his focus on the negative. Haunted by the death of his brothers, he stumbles through life with no plan. The only genuine relationship he has is with his younger sister Phoebe.

Holden is far from likeable. He is too judgmental and far too cynical; but his frustration is understandable, which makes him relatable. He is the worst parts of me - judging the faults of those to whom he is attracted, but harboring resentment against himself. Holden is my feelings of alienation, angst, and insecurity that rear their ugly heads from time to time. 

I felt this a lot in high school.

And now – decades later – I sometimes still fall into that same pit.

Saturday, October 10, 2020 9:02:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)