# Saturday, January 9, 2021

2020 began with trips to Dallas, TX and Charlotte, NC and it appeared that this year would be similar to 2019 - traveling for customers and OpenHacks in my role as a software engineer for Microsoft's CSE organization.

But that all changed in March when my team canceled a planned trip to Charlotte to minimize the risk of spreading coronavirus.

After that cancellation, I did not fly on a plane and I barely left the upper Midwest.

Still, it was an eventful year for me and for the whole world.

Family

My son Nick completed his first season as head coach at Kalamazoo College. He inherited a program that has not had a winning record in 17 years. The Hornets made some positive steps under his leadership, breaking several offensive records. COVID has postponed the 2020-21 season, which is now scheduled to begin in February, so he and his team are currently preparing to compete again in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. In bigger news, Nick proposed to his longtime girlfriend Adriana and the two plan to marry in 2022.

In November, my son Tim accepted job with Microsoft Consulting Services. He will be working with the US Government, using his knowledge of Microsoft Dynamics. Although we are on different teams, I am very excited to be his colleague.

Both of my sisters sold their houses this year - one moved to a place with a much bigger yard and one downsized to a smaller place (which I have not yet seen)

My brother was hospitalized with COVID-19 this summer in Arizona but has recovered and is now reunited with his family in Australia.

Travel

My work travel ceased early in the year, thanks to the pandemic; but I did manage a couple trips later in the year.

I traveled to Michigan in early October to sponsor my nephew's Confirmation.

In late October, I took a weeklong vacation and drove to northern Michigan, visiting my friends Pat and Susan in Petoskey before driving to Michigan's Upper Peninsula for my first extended visit to this region.

In November, I took another week off and drove south, spending a few days each in St. Louis, Memphis, and Nashville. During my stay in Memphis, I was able to make my first visits to the states of Arkansas and Mississippi, bringing me closer to my goal of visiting all 50 US states.

I finally took vacation the last 3 weeks of December, but stayed close to home, as the country's lockdown intensified.

Concerts

For the past few years, I have been increasing my concert attendance. The current pandemic forced the closing of Chicago concert halls for months and reduced the schedule and capacity after they re-opened. In the fall, I was able to see some very good local and regional artists at venues that practice social distancing. SPACE in Evanston and Jazz Showcase in Chicago's South Loop were favourite destinations, but a spike in statewide infections forced these venues to close again, along with other places in the city. Prior to the Spring shutdown, I did manage to catch They Might Be Giants - a band I have always enjoyed but never seen live.

Volunteering

I did far less volunteering this year than in the past. The only significant exception was when I mentored Chicago high school students for the Illinois STEM Challenge. To compensate for my decrease in physical contributions, I donated more money to charities than I ever have before. My favourite donation happened when I asked Facebook friends to contribute to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, promising to match all donations up to $500. This campaign raised over $1200 for a worthy cause.

Exercise

All gyms in Chicago were closed for months, so it was tempting to stay home and get fat. To combat this, I came up with a daily 20-minute exercise routine that I stuck with for most of the year. I also did a tremendous amount of bike riding - mostly around the city of Chicago. I made a point of riding almost every day that weather and available daylight permitted. I rode over 1500 miles this year.

As a result, I was able to lose about 20 pounds. Sadly, I gained back 10 of those pounds over the holidays. Back to work!

Reading

I accelerated my reading - especially in the summer. I completed 92 books in 2020 and reviewed 85 of them. You can follow my progress here.

Blogging

I continued my blogging in 2020, posting 182 entries for the year - an average of about 1 every 2 days.

I kept up my 2 TV shows - Technology and Friends and GCast throughout most of the year. I was forced to make a significant change to T&F, switching from exclusively in-person interviews to virtual meetings over Teams or Zoom. It was either that or pause the show indefinitely until we could interact physically again.

My job

This year felt a bit like treading water. My team worked on projects steadily throughout 2020, but at no point did we have high pressure or impossible deadlines. I had a chance to work on two Java projects and I learned a lot about the Spring framework, but I do not think I progressed as much as in years past. The good news is that I have a secure job with a stable company. Repeatedly, company management reinforced the message that it was acceptable for us to feel the stress of 2020 - a message that I appreciated.

Reason for Optimism

I consider myself lucky. Although this year brought change and disruption, it was not the catastrophe it was for many. So many people lost their jobs and/or their health and/or their loved ones this year; so many had to learn to adjust to having young children at home during the week; so many had to learn how to do their job remotely; so many placed themselves in harm's way because their jobs were considered essential.

Seeing others rise to these challenges, it is easy to accept a year with less travel.

Saturday, January 9, 2021 3:06:50 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, January 7, 2021

GCast 98:

Using the Azure Storage Explorer

The Azure Storage Explorer provides a simple way to access objects in an Azure Storage Account. This video walks you through how to install and use this tool.

Thursday, January 7, 2021 9:03:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, January 5, 2021

An Azure Resource Group (RG) is a logical grouping of resources or assets within an Azure subscription. This helps you organizing related resources - You can open an RG to see a web app, its associated App Service Plan, and the database that it accesses listed - to remind you that these things are related.

But there are more tangible benefits to Resource Groups.

For example, I create a lot of Azure demos for presentations that I deliver in-person, online, or as part of my GCast show. https://aka.ms/gcast

When I create a demo, I place all assets in the same resource group, which makes it easier to delete all these demo resources when the presentation ends.

Another advantage is the ability to create an ARM for all resources in a Resource Group with a few mouse clicks. This allows you to easily automate the deployment of these resources to a new environment using PowerShell or the Azure CLI. With an ARM, resources are created in the correct order and input parameters allow you to change things like the names and locations of these resources.

Azure also gives you the ability to move everything in a Resource Group from one subscription to another.

Finally, Azure allows you to merge two resource groups.

You can create a new Azure Resource Group in the Azure Portal (either by itself or as part of a resource that will be added to the group); via a REST API; via the Azure CLI; or using Azure PowerShell.

When deciding how to organize your Azure assets, consider keeping together related resources by placing them in the same Resource Group. Also, consider creating a new Resource Group for each of your deployment environments, such as Development, Testing, and Production.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021 9:47:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, January 4, 2021

Episode 642

Javier Lozano on Virtual Conferences

Ten years ago, Javier Lozano started .NET Conf - an online conference to educate people about Microsoft products. Javier discusses the challenges in creating this and other online tech events.

Links:
https://obsproject.com/
https://streamyard.com/

Monday, January 4, 2021 9:37:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, January 3, 2021

1/3
Today I am grateful to charitable organizations that find uses for my excess stuff.

1/2
Today I am grateful
-to watch football yesterday with my sons
-to have my son Nick visit here for the week

1/1
Today I am grateful for the possibilities that a new year brings.

12/31
Today I am grateful to catch up with Ondrej and Hattan this week.

12/30
Today I am grateful
-to wake up to a blanket of snow over the city
-to watch Premier League Soccer with my sons yesterday.

12/29
Today I am grateful that my son is visiting me this week.

12/28
Today I am grateful for a second pair of eyeglasses - ideal for reading my computer screen.

12/27
Today I am grateful for a second pair of eyeglasses - ideal for reading my computer screen.

12/26
Today I am grateful for a virtual Christmas celebration with my family yesterday.

12/25
Today I am grateful that God loved us enough to send us his only son.

12/24
Today I am grateful:
-to return to the dentist for the first time in over a year
-for an unseasonably warm day yesterday and hours spent outside

12/23
Today I am grateful to hang out virtually last night with Lee, Matthew, and Serene.

12/22
Today I am grateful to exchange emails with old friends this week.

12/21
Today I am grateful for "Fargo"

12/19
Today I am grateful for my safe deposit box, which is now holding my Will and Power of Attorney.

12/18
Today I am grateful to hang out virtually with Mike this morning.

12/17
Today I am grateful to have my towel rack and toilet handle repaired.

12/16
Today I am grateful:
-for a portrait from David
-to my son who drove over to fix my TV last night
-to start my vacation

12/15
Today I am grateful for Doctor Who

12/14
Today I am grateful for my son's first day working at Microsoft.

12/13
Today I am grateful to drive around Lincolnwood last night with friends looking at holiday light displays.

12/12
Today I am grateful for spellcheckers

12/11
Today I am grateful for surprisingly mild weather yesterday.

12/10
Today I am grateful to fix the switch that toggles water flow between shower and bath, so it no longer sends half the water to each.

12/9
Today I am grateful to my friend Jerry, who shares the knowledge whenever he learns a new word.

12/8
Today I am grateful that my brother is back with his family after months in the US and weeks quarantining in Australia.

12/7
Today I am grateful for a walk around my neighborhood with my son before he drove home yesterday.

Sunday, January 3, 2021 4:09:28 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, January 2, 2021

Liane Moriarty's 2014 novel Big Little Lies is about secrets in a small town. The story focuses on three friends in Pirriwee - a beach town north of Sydney, Australia.

Single mother Jane arrives in Pirriwee with her 5-year-old son Ziggy. At Ziggy's kindergarten, he is accused of choking one of his female classmates. Rumors about Ziggy continue throughout the school year and some of the Kindergarten parents pressure the school to remove the boy. The Parents take sides in this battle. Two mothers - Madeline and Celeste - befriend Jane and ally themselves with her.

At the novel's beginning, the reader learns that a murder will be committed. This murder is referenced throughout the story, but we must wait until the end to learn who is involved and why.

Moriarty slowly and masterfully peels away layers of her characters to reveal their flaws and the secrets they are hiding.

Madeline is jealous of the affection her daughter Abigail shows to her ex-husband and his new wife Bonnie. Abigail initiates a fundraising campaign that shocks her parents and stepparents.

Celeste is a beautiful woman with two beautiful twins. Her rich, handsome husband Perry is charming and generous; but he flies into a range every few months and beats his wife. Even her closest friends don't suspect the tragedy of her marriage.

And Jane is hiding a dark secret about Ziggy's father.

On one level, the book is a humorous tale of catty, desperate housewives in a suburban community. But Moriarty takes it far beyond that. It is a story of strong women trying to survive against real problems. It is filled with victim blaming, including self-blame by the victims themselves. It shines a light on spousal abuse, bullying, sexual assault, and gossip.

I enjoyed it to the end.

Saturday, January 2, 2021 9:33:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 28, 2020

Episode 641

Ed Charbeneau on Blazor Testing

Microsoft Blazor presents some challenges for those creating automated tests. Ed Charbeneau describes ways to address these challenges and some tools to help you create unit tests and functional tests.

Links:
http://blogs.telerik.com
https://youtu.be/WdB723tIWg0
https://twitter.com/edcharbeneau
https://twitch.tv/codeitlive
https://www.twitch.tv/edcharbeneau

Monday, December 28, 2020 9:43:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, December 27, 2020

Frank Herbert's 1965 novel Dune remains a classic more than a half century after its release.

Dune The Graphic Novel Book 1 shows how hard it is to adapt this great novel visually. David Lynch failed miserably with his 1984 movie and the Syfy Channel had slight success with 2000 mini-series.

Herbert's son Brian Herbert teams with author Kevin J. Anderson to write the text for this adaptation and they do a good job. The pair have made their reputation with a series of respectable novels set in the Dune universe. They are assisted by artist Raul Allen and letterer Patricia Martin.

The graphic novel is good; The storytelling is faithful to the original; the art is attractive; the lettering is good (although I had an issue with some unnecessary low-contrast text on backgrounds), so overall I liked this graphic novel. The main issue comes with the lack of subtlety. While the elder Herbert infused his story with multiple layer and secreted hidden meanings within each line of dialogue, this story is much more straightforward. As such, it lacks the subtlety that made the original so great.

This graphic novel is good to read after finishing the Dune book. The novel can be intimidating, and it is easy to miss things the first time around. This comic helps to clarify them. But do yourself a favour and do not start with the graphic novel. You will miss the excitement of discovering the story layers as they are slowly unfolded within Frank Herbert's original prose.

Sunday, December 27, 2020 7:58:02 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 21, 2020

Episode 640

David Neal on Hand Drawn Illustrations for Powerful Storytelling

David Neal is a technical presenter who often gives inspirational talks. A few years ago, he began adding his own artwork to his slides. He talks about his approach and how it has affected the stories he tells.

Links:
https://twitter.com/reverentgeek
https://www.instagram.com/reverentgeek/
https://reverentgeek.com/
david@reverentgeek.com

Monday, December 21, 2020 9:06:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Founding Fathers of the United States hold a special place in my country's history. Centuries after they lived, people still speak with reverence of men like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. Yet one man of this era stands above even these giants. George Washington cemented his place in history by leading the American army that defeated the British in the Revolution War; then, serving as the first President of the United States.

Ron Chernow's biography Washington: A Life details the General/President's rise and how handled the power he was given.

Washington was born into an upper-middle class family; but rose to become one of the landed gentry by a series of fortuitous events: his widowed mother married a wealthy farmer and George inherited the large estate at Mount Vernon by outliving all other possible heirs; then, George married wealthy widow Martha Custis.

When the American Revolution began, Washington led a poorly-equipped, ill-trained army to victory over one of the great powers in the world. He did so despite infighting among his officers and the young country's lawmakers.

After the war, Washington was the most popular man in America and the logical choice to serve as its first leader. He won the Presidency unanimously and served two terms despite his desire to return to his Virginia estate and manage the farms there.

In his first term, George Washington attempted to unite the factions of the young country - surrounding himself with people of varying opinions. His cabinet and advisors included Northerners and southerners; slaveholders and abolitionists; those who favored a centralized government and those suspicious of concentrated power. Fierce debates arose as to whether the US should align itself more closely with England or France - two countries at war with one another. By his second term, Washington had tired of the infighting among his advisors and those that criticized him publicly. Quarrels between Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, and Madison left him weary and disillusioned, so he retained a more homogeneous cabinet for his final four years in office.

As with Chernow's earlier biography of Alexander Hamilton, "Washington: A Life" goes beyond the historical facts and gives the reader a taste for Washington's character and personality. Washington was arrogant, stoic, and aloof; he was not given to long speeches, but he was eloquent in his writing; he rejected the idea of a British-style monarchy for America and was hurt that some thought he had ambitions of becoming king; he desperately wanted to leave public life and return to managing Mount Vernon (during the War, he corresponded frequently with the managers of his estate); he was unwavering in his honesty and integrity; he was highly conscious of his public image; he enjoyed the luxuries that came with wealth; he had a difficult relationship with his overly-demanding mother.

In this book, we see a complex man, who held together a nation during arguably its most vulnerable time. Few people had the universal respect to pull off this miracle.

Washington had a strong sense of duty that drove him to server in public office, despite his cash flow problems, which could have been better addressed by staying home and managing his estate. Ultimately, he was the unifying force that the young republic needed. His actions strengthened the central government and the country and defined the office of presidency.

But Washington had his faults.

As a general, he was not a great strategist - he lost more battles than he won - but held together a ragtag, underfunded army for years until the British forces committed a blunder he could exploit.

The most controversial aspect of Washington's life is his status as a slave owner. : or note that he appeared to treat his slaves better than his peers (Washington forbade beatings and refused to separate families).

Arguably the most conflicted aspect Washington was his dealings with slavery and Chernow covers this topic considerably. Washington and his wife owned hundreds of slaves and made almost no public effort to promote abolition. Yet he spoke privately of his desire to end slavery and thought the practice would eventually die out on its own. He showed less cruelty to his slaves than most other Virginia farmers, establishing rules against physical beatings and separating families; but he sometimes broke these rules when he felt it was necessary. One can take into account that nearly every wealthy Virginia landowner owned slaves and one can note that he freed his slaves in his will. But he remained publicly silent on the political hot topic, despite being in a position of great influence. Washington's position on slavery evolved throughout his lifetime, but he seems to have never fully grasped the inhumanity and cruelty inherent in one human being owning another

These are the kinds of things that Chernow presents to the reader to show the humanity and complexity of or first President. He praises Washington's achievements, while stripping away his legendary status, showing him as a great, but flawed human, not a demi-god or saint

If you are looking for a comprehensive biography of one of the most influential men in American history - a book that covers his entire life, this one is for you.

Saturday, December 19, 2020 5:08:28 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)