# Saturday, October 31, 2020

British author Anthony Powell spent most of his life creating the 12-volume series A Dance to the Music of Time. The story is semi-autobiographical with narrator Nicholas Jenkins standing in for Powell. But the story is not about Jenkins/Powell. Although he shares 50 years of his life - from the early 1920s to the early 1970s - he reveals very little about himself: We never even learn the names of his children. Instead, the story focuses on the people in the narrator's life during these decades.

We meet many characters. Some exit Nick's life forever; some exit and return in a later book; and some die. The lives of the characters often intertwine - sometimes via implausible coincidences (Nick often runs into friends on the streets of the enormous city of London and in small villages in the UK). The story is told mostly in chronological order, with each book consisting of 3-4 set pieces that provide insight into the characters and the time. The narrative seldom ventures outside of England - even when the Nicholas and his friends serve in World War II.

The novels tell a story of English society during each era. Because most of the characters are upper middle class, the story focuses on the lesser aristocrats and bohemians. History happens off-stage, reflected in the lives of the people in the story. We hear of the world outside through gossip and conversations at a plethora of dinners and cocktail parties.

In this richly layered work, Powell addresses themes of marriage, relationships, divorce; of the connectedness between people and events; and of the varying philosophies that people use to make sense of the world. But mostly, it is about the changes that time brings to individuals and to relationships.

Reading this series can be a challenge. Hundreds of characters are introduced, and the reader cannot always tell immediately which will be significant later. The most interesting character is Kenneth Widmerpool - other the narrator, the only one to appear in every book. Widmerpool is arrogant, ambitious, and decidedly unlikeable, but rises quickly in business, the military, and politics.  Widmerpool exists also to introduce his wife - the beautiful femme fatale Pamela. Like a venomous creature, Pamela lures men to her; then attempts to destroy them.

Powell includes a lot of dialogue, but it is good dialogue because Nick surrounds himself with Clever people.

Each book stands alone; but this is much better read as a complete series. Keeping track of the characters is a challenge, but it is more meaningful when a character appears after an absence of many years.

If you have the time to dedicate to reading the 3000 pages of this series, the rewards are great.

Saturday, October 31, 2020 8:27:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, October 29, 2020

GCast 97:

Accessing MinIO with the AWS S3 SDK

The AWS S3 SDK for Java allows you to read from and write to MinIO. This allows you to easily migrate an application from using S3 to using MinIO Server or Agent.

Code:

https://github.com/DavidGiard/MinIO_Java_Demo/releases/tag/GCast097

Database | GCast | Java | MinIO | Screencast | Video
Thursday, October 29, 2020 8:24:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# 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)