Jennifer Egan scored big with "A Visit from the Goon Squad," her unconventional nonlinear story collection that won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award. She returned in 2022 with "The Candy House," which continues the stories of many of the characters introduced in "Goon Squad."

As in the first novel, Egan uses a variety of styles to tell her stories. She switches from first person to omniscient narrator and back. Although she employs nothing as radical as telling a story through Power Point slides (as she did in her earlier book), she does employ some unconventional narrative technique. In one story, a woman on an espionage mission recalls her training (told in the second person) in real time, as she faces situations that require specific training messages. She relates another story entirely via emails between the characters.

While her earlier novel focused on the characters surrounding music executive Lou Kline, this one is more thematic, exploring the role of sharing and oversharing with others through a powerful social network. It explores everything from understanding how others felt about us to the surrender of privacy to the government's weaponization of the technology. Bix Bouton - a minor character in "Goon Squad" - invents "Own Your Unconscious" - a technology that allows users to upload their memories for preservation and to anonymously access the recorded memories of others. This invention changes the world.

Egan expertly foreshadows many of the story’s events. A conversation at a cocktail party about recording the thoughts of pets inspires Bix to create "Own Your Unconscious." And the above-mentioned spy mention leads to PTSD years later.

Keeping straight all the characters and their relationships is a challenge, but that is part of the fun of this book. The children and siblings of characters introduced in "Goon Squad" receive their own stories here. Some of the connections are subtle. Miranda Kline, the reclusive anthropologist on which much of Bix's "Own Your Unconscious" is built, is Mindy, the young woman who accompanied her lover and future husband Lou Kline on an African safari in "Goon Squad." It is these connections that make the book fascinating and (sometimes) difficult to follow.

"The Candy House" is a book I can see myself reading again.


Episode 789

Michael Eaton on Sharing Knowledge

Michael Eaton has a passion for sharing knowledge, via public speaking, blogging, and creating public GitHub repositories. He discusses how this practice helps himself and others.


Although "Beneath a Scarlet Sky" is a novel, author Mark Sullivan based it on the life of Pino Lella, a young Italian man who helped rescue Jews and spied on the Nazis in occupied Italy at the end of the Second World War.

It was a difficult time for Italy. Mussolini's Fascist government was collapsing. The Germans had moved in to stabilize the country but brought the brutal Nazi tactics with them. The Allies were advancing throughout Europe and bombing Milan and other Italian cities. Resistance groups organized to fight the Nazis and Fascists, but some people joined these groups to terrorize their countrymen and increase their power.

Pino was a teenager when the Germans came to Italy. He did what he could to help those threatened by the invaders. First, Pion led Jews across the mountains into Switzerland to escape almost certain death in a concentration camp. Later, he volunteered as a driver for a Nazi General to gain information for the resistance - a role that placed him in daily danger and that caused many of his friends and family to label him a traitor.

He also fell in love with the General's maid.

The story begins slowly, but the pace accelerates with each section. The suspense increases significantly when Pino volunteers to join the German Army to spy on the Nazis. After the war ends, the violence continues as the newly freed Milanese seek vengeance against any they perceive as Nazis or Nazi collaborators.

Sullivan builds the story very well. We see Pino's evolution in maturity, skill, and courage. We feel his pain when his friends assume he is working for the Nazis. His heartache is apparent when his courage fails and when he loses loved ones.

"Beneath a Scarlet Sky" is a story of espionage, action, adventure, love, and loss. It is a study of what ordinary people will do to survive and of what courage means.

How much of the book is true is anyone's guess. Sullivan based the story on his interviews with Lella, and no one has independently corroborated the tale's events. But it is dramatic, moving, and entertaining. And that is enough for me.


I have scheduled a lot of public speaking, beginning today in Chicago. Here is my schedule.

Date Topic Event Location
2/15/2024 Generative AI Tools in Microsoft Azure Insight & Rightpoint: Unleashing Azure AI Search and Copilot Chicago, IL
2/21/2024 Generative AI Tools in Microsoft Azure GOTO/CJUG/Kotlin Group Chicago, IL
3/11/2024 Generative AI Tools in Microsoft Azure Elastic Chicago User Group Chicago, IL
3/22/2024 Blood, Sweat, and Code Reviews Michigan Technology Conference Pontiac, MI
3/22/2024 ChatGPT Unleashed Michigan Technology Conference Pontiac, MI
3/22/2024 Effective Data Visualization Michigan Technology Conference Pontiac, MI
3/22/2024 You and Your Technical Community Michigan Technology Conference Pontiac, MI
4/4/2024 ChatGPT Unleashed Roanoke Valley .NET User Group Online
4/17/2024 Blood, Sweat, and Code Reviews Pittsburgh .NET User Group Online
4/30/2024 Navigating Cloudy Horizons with Azure Monitor and Application Insights VSLive Chicago, IL
4/30/2024 Effective Data Visualization VSLive Chicago, IL
5/6/2024 ChatGPT Unleashed LambdaConf Estes Park, CO
5/17/2024 Navigating Cloudy Horizons with Azure Monitor and Application Insights DevSum Stockholm, Sweden

Episode 788

Jeremy Miller on The Case Against Clean Architecture

Although Clean Architecture has many benefits, Jeremy Miller cautions that it is not the correct solution to every problem.

https://github.com/jasperfx/wolverine


The Set of Harry Potter and the Cursed ChildJ.K. Rowling created an immersive universe in her seven novels that described Harry Potter as he grew to adulthood while battling the forces of evil that threatened his wizarding world. Following her series' wildly popular film adaptations, Rowling turned her creative talents to the theater, developing the story that became "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child." Playwright Jack Thorne fleshed out the story into a two-part play that premiered in London in 2016.

The Broadway production at New York's Lyric Theatre compresses the two plays into a single performance.

Rather than focusing on Harry and his friends, "The Cursed Child" tells the story of Harry's son, Albus, as he attends the Hogwarts Wizarding School. The Sorting Hat assigns Albus to Slytherin House, where he befriends Scorpius Malfoy - son of Harry's old nemesis Draco. Together, the two attempt to travel back in time and prevent the death of Cedric Diggory, whom the evil Lord Voldemort killed during the Triwizard Tournament.

Joel Myers and Erik Christopher Peterson excel as Albus and Scorpius, respectively. Peterson is especially charming, projecting a nerdiness that contrasts with his father's bravado. The two boys are haunted by comparisons with their fathers - Albus because he can never live up to the heroic Harry and Scorpius because Draco was an ally of Voldemort's.

Unlike many Broadway productions, "Cursed" is not a musical. There is no singing, and the music is mainly instrumental. But some well-choreographed dance numbers help advance the story. And special effects enhance the show, such as when dementors descend from the ceiling to suck the soles of their victims.

If I have any complaint, it is with the acoustics of the Lyric. I sometimes lost the dialogue between the unmiked actors and their British accents. But this is a minor flaw, and it did not diminish my enjoyment.

At 3.5 hours, this show is one of the longest I have seen. But its story, acting, and production made it feel much shorter.


"Wherever wrongs need righting;

Wherever darkness needs lighting;

Wherever evil needs fighting!"

Cast of When You Awake, You Will Remember EverythingI may not have quoted him verbatim, but this is the kind of campy dialogue that comes out of the mouth of The Titan - a hero who battles evildoers such as mad scientist Doctor Fiendish and lethal kickboxer the High Heel in a universe populated by superheroes and super villains.

With his nefarious invention, Dr. Fiendish transports The Titan to a new dimension (ours), where doctors interpret Titan's insistence that he once possessed super strength and the ability to fly as delusions and work to cure him of his neurosis.

This is the setup for the delightful "When You Awake, You Will Remember Everything." I caught the first preview performance Friday evening at the intimate Edge Theatre in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood.

"Awake" is the brainchild of playwright Gregory Peters and director Jack Dugan Carpenter. The local theatre troupe The Plagiarists produced the show.

Bryan Breau devoted himself exclusively to the role of The Titan, but all others in the cast portrayed multiple characters - sometimes different incarnations of themselves in the two universes. Each expertly delivered their cheesy and fun dialogue to the audience's delight.

I loved the characters' superpowers: Split Second can always see both sides of any issue, which tends to paralyze him into inaction; the High Heel's arsenal consists of lethal kicks so creative that she names each one/ and The Spiritual Advisor gives sage advice but can never act on it.

Despite this being the first preview performance of the play, the acting and production were tight. The show filled the space perfectly - an impressive accomplishment, given the low-budget set design.

The cheap sets and the campy dialogue added to the experience, making it feel like a B-Movie matinee. And the complex story added a layer that made the evening even more memorable.



GCast 168:

GitHub Action Triggers [GCast 168]

Learn about the available triggers in GitHub Actions and how to configure them in the YAML file.


Episode 787

Alex Riviere on Fresh Hot CSS Features

Alex Riviere shows off powerful CSS features that you many not be aware of. He covers:

  • custom properties
    grid
    "has" selector
    logical properties

Links:
https://alex.party/
https://codepen.io/fimion/pen/mdoMJJx


January 2023 Gratitudes

Comments [0]

2/4
Today I am grateful to drive to and from Kalamazoo yesterday with no snowstorms.

2/3
Today I am grateful to see "When You Awake, You Will Remember Everything" at the Edge Theatre last night

2/2
Today I am grateful for 6 years in my current home.

2/1
Today I am grateful to visit Le Piano last night for the first time.

1/31
Today I am grateful to lose 35 pounds in the last 6 months.

1/30
Today I am grateful
- to drop off my car at the body shop and pick up a rental car yesterday.
- to talk with my nephew Matt in Australia

1/29
Today I am grateful to see Adam Conover last night at the City Winery.

1/28
Today I am grateful for lunch with Tobias yesterday.

1/27
Today I am grateful:
- to be a guest on the "How to Human" show
- for a long conversation with Jeffrey yesterday

1/26
Today I am grateful to participate in Chicago Restaurant week yesterday for the first time.

1/25
Today I am grateful for all the interviews I was able to schedule this month for #TechnologyAndFriends

1/24
Today I am grateful to participate in a mock session yesterday to help teach younger software architects how to run an Architecture Design Session

1/23
Today I am grateful for dinner last night with Kendall

1/22
Today I am grateful to see "Highway Patrol" starring Dana Delaney at the Goodman Theatre last night.

1/21
Today I am grateful to see Rosanne Cash in concert last night.

1/20
Today I am grateful for a good kitchen

1/19
Today I am grateful
- to participate in an executive AI round table with Thoughtworks yesterday
- for a ride from Kevin yesterday

1/18
Today I am grateful to stay inside on extremely frigid days.

1/17
Today I am grateful:
- for a conversation with Christina yesterday
- to see Hamilton last night

1/16
Today I am grateful for 15 years of #TechnologyAndFriends

1/15
Today I am grateful for the Lions' second playoff victory in my lifetime.

1/14
Today I am grateful to attend an exciting Kalamazoo College overtime victory, coached by my son Nick yesterday.

1/13
Today I am grateful for:
- seeing Buddy Guy and Bobby Rush in concert last night
- a chance to speak at #CodeMash yesterday
- arriving home safely during yesterday's storm
- a gift of home-harvested honey from Gaines and Mary

1/12
Today I am grateful for:
- all the volunteers who made #CodeMash a success this year
- seeing so many old friends this week
- the hospitality of J.

1/11
Today I am grateful to Chris and Manifest Solutions for an enjoyable dinner last night.

1/9
Today I am grateful to Eric for a place to stay last night

1/8
Today I am grateful to attend a basketball game with my son last night in Evanston, even though the good guys lost.


Jennifer Egan's "A Visit from the Goon Squad" is a collection of short stories that feels like a novel.

Eagan tells each story about different people; she tells each from a different point of view; and she writes each in a different style. The chapters appear out of sequence chronologically, which may confuse the reader. But it works. Characters cross over into one another's tales: a peripheral character in one story becomes the focus of another. They all tie together by their association with the music industry - particularly with the "Sow's Ear" record company and its employees.

The author frequently introduces plot points before clarifying these points a hundred pages later. In one story, we learn that a mutual friend recently died. Later, the author relates a visit to this friend on his deathbed. A character appears after serving a prison sentence for attempted rape. Later, we read a first-person account of the assault.

Egan swings the narrative style significantly from story to story. One sounds as if a teenage girl is relating the incidents to her friends (for example, using "goes" as a synonym for "talks"); another is a narcissistic article that is supposed to be a report of a celebrity interview; another is a series of PowerPoint slides that describes a family's relationship with an autistic son, who has an obsession with the pauses in rock songs.

The "Goon" of the book's title is the passage of Time. Time changes people - sometimes for the better, sometimes not. Time separates us and occasionally reunites us later in our lives. We can look back with fondness, regret, or pride, but there is no returning to the past. One character laments, "Time's a goon, right? You gonna let that goon push you around?" As one who has grown and struggled and rebounded through six decades of ups and downs, this theme resonated.

I found Egan's nonlinear storytelling compelling. I loved how she clarified events as the novel went on. "Goon Squad" is a beautiful mosaic that allows the reader to peek into personal lives at critical points.


Episode 786

Brian Gorman on a Microsoft Software Training Program for US Military Veterans

Brian Gorman is a trainer working with the Microsoft Software and Systems Academy, which provides IT training to US military veterans transitioning to civilian life. He discusses the program, its value, his students, and some of the challenges.

Links:
https://military.microsoft.com/mssa/
https://www.linkedin.com/groups/6615932/
https://www.linkedin.com/showcase/microsoft-military-affairs/


DanaDelaneyInHighwayPatrol2024Years ago, I regularly watched a show called "China Beach," which featured a talented young actress named Dana Delany. In the ensuing decades, Delany has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows - none of which I have seen.

She also experienced a strange relationship on Twitter. On the social media platform, Delany met Cam - a 13-year-old boy suffering from a debilitating illness. Soon, she was drawn into online conversations with Cam's grandmother and brother. "Highway Patrol," which premiered at the Goodman Theatre this month, tells the story of that encounter. Delany plays herself, Thomas Murphy Molony plays Cam, and Dot-Marie Jones ("Glee") plays the grandmother and a few other roles.

It isn't easy to describe the point of the play without giving away twists, but it focuses on social media's impact on our lives. It also includes some cyberstalking - a topic that hit home for me since I was recently the victim of a stalker.

I saw the Sunday evening performance and enjoyed the story and the acting. The show is still in preview and suffers from some of the growing pains of early productions (I overheard a director prompt Jones for one of her lines), but it was entertaining, moving, and enjoyable.


RosanneCash2024Find someone who looks at you the way that Rosanne Cash looks at John Leventhal. Rosanne is the daughter of music legend Johnny Cash and a successful singer-songwriter with multiple Grammys on her resume. John is a Grammy-winning producer, songwriter, and musician. He is also Rosanne's husband of almost 30 years,

The couple performed at the Old Town School of Folk Music on Saturday night before a sold-out audience. Although Leventhal played excellent lead guitar and piano, the night belonged to Cash. Her voice was outstanding - perfect tone and heartfelt musician.

RosanneCashAndJohnLeventhal2024This year marked the thirtieth anniversary of Cash's album "The Wheel." Thanks to a clause in her contract with Columbia, Cash acquired the rights to the album's songs this year. She celebrated by re-releasing the album on her label and performing several songs tonight ("Tears Falling Down," "From the Ashes," "If There's a God on My Side," "You Won't Let Me In," and "The Wheel")

Despite the loving gazes between the couple, the evening's songs mainly consisted of broken hearts and failed relationships. Songs like "Sea of Heartbreak" and "Blue Moon With Heartache" set the tone for the evening with their sweet melancholy.

I expected more country music, but the pair mixed up the setlist, performing folk and blues.

Cash closed the set with my favourite of her tunes - "Seven Year Ache," before exiting and returning for an encore. Originally intending to perform only Bob Dylan's "Farewell, Argentina," she honored an audience request and performed "500 Miles" to close the evening.

Cash and Leventhal are great musicians with great chemistry and a wonderful rapport with the audience. Thirty years after they fell in love, audiences continue to fall in love with them.


GCast 167: GitHub Actions

Comments [0]

GCast 167:

GitHub Actions [GCast 167]

Learn how to create and edit a GitHub Action.


Hamilton cast, 2024Sometimes, I make spaghetti and cover it with a generous amount of tomato sauce before storing the leftovers in my refrigerator. Something about the way the sauce permeates the noodles makes the meal taste even better the next day.

Something similar happened with my Hamilton experience. Five years ago, I took my son to the Lin-Manuel Miranda creation during its first Chicago residency. We loved it. The music, the acting, the story, and the dancing were all exceptional. Tuesday evening, I returned to see an entirely new cast perform the musical life of founding father, Alexander Hamilton.

In the years since I first experienced Hamilton, I became familiar with the music and the story. I even read Ron Chernow's "Hamilton" - the biography on which Miranda based his musical. \

This performance was like visiting an old friend. Although I missed the thrill of experiencing each number for the first time, I loved the joy of greeting a familiar piece I felt in my soul.

Pierre Jean Gonzalez as the title character and Deon'te Goodman as his rival Aaron Burr were outstanding, as was Jared Howelton, who played the Marquis de Lafayette in Act 1 and Thomas Jefferson in Act 2. Neil Haskell stole the show during his brief appearances as King George, whose relationship with the American colonies echoed that of an abusive husband.

I believe the sets remained unchanged from the earlier run, which was good because it worked. The rotating center of the stage allowed for the appearance of more action than could fit on the Nederlander Theatre stage.

Time and familiarity enhanced my love of this musical. With any luck, I will return to it in a few years.


Episode 785

Jose And Laurel Mojica on Virtual Reality Storytelling [EPISODE 785]

Jose And Laurel Mojica are creating a new film, which they plan to release in Virtual Reality. They discuss some of the challenges of telling a story using VR and some of the tools they use on their project.


Near the end of the American Civil War, the Confederate government ordered the construction of a camp near Andersonville, GA to house captured Union soldiers. Conditions at the camp were harsh. Overcrowding, lack of food, and poor sanitation led to the deaths of thousands of prisoners. The prison had no roof, exposing the prisoners to extreme elements, and lacked fresh water and toilets. Tens of thousands of prisoners crowded into a compound designed for a fraction of that number. Nearly a third of those incarcerated at Andersonville died in captivity.

MacKinlay Kantor's 1955 novel "Andersonville" tells the story of this camp and the people associated with it.

Kantor took some of his characters from history. Camp Commander Henry Wirz was never able to manage the prison effectively. Prisoner William Collins repeatedly stole from fellow prisoners for his own benefit. Confederate guards hanged Collins; Wirz was arrested, convicted of war crimes, and executed after the war. He created fictional characters to represent the tens of thousands who lived, suffered, and sometimes died under the horrific conditions, as well as those surrounding the camp.

The novel follows the camp, its prisoners, its management, and those affected by Andersonville through the end of the Civil War. We see the inhumane conditions suffered by the prisoners. We experience the prejudices that ordinary people use to rationalize their hatred against Blacks, Yankees, Jews, Catholics, and others. But not everyone we meet is consumed with hate. Landowner Ira Claffey fights unsuccessfully for better conditions for the prisoners. He retains at least some of his humanity despite the Confederacy taking his land to build the prison and the Union Army killing his three sons in battle. And a one-legged southerner assists a one-armed escaped POW at the end of the war.

The sheer number of characters sometimes makes the story difficult to follow. One never knows when we meet someone if they will be significant later in the book. I found it challenging to keep them all straight. No central character dominates the story. The prison serves as the center, and all action revolves around it.

This book is not for the faint of heart. It describes suffering and cruelty in detail. Kantor provides detailed descriptions of the disease, abuse, and starvation suffered by those imprisoned at Andersonville.

If you seek a depiction of the horrors and savagery of war, this book is for you.


Buddy Guy and Bobby Rush 2023An era is ending. Blues singer and guitarist Buddy Guy, who will turn eighty-eight this year, announced last year that he is retiring from touring. He posted his farewell tour on his website.

Fortunately for those of us in his hometown of Chicago, Buddy booked performances three nights a week during January at his club "Buddy Guy's Legends." For years, fans have anticipated this annual January residency and the chance to see the legendary bluesman in a small club setting. Each night, the show features a different warmup artist.

I purchased tickets for the January 12 show primarily because Bobby Rush was the scheduled opening act. I have long been a fan of Bobby's 1971 song "Chicken Heads," and the 90-year-old Rush has been performing even longer than Mr. Guy. Rush delivered a decent set. He talked a little too much, sang a little too little, flirted with the ladies in the front row, and finished with "Chicken Heads," adding some improvised verses. Although underwhelming, he set the mood nicely for the main act.

Buddy opened his set with "Damn Right I've Got the Blues" - an energetic song that rocked the house. For much of the evening, he paid tribute to many of the blues legends with covers of songs by Muddy Waters ("Hoochie Coochie Man"), John Lee Hooker ("Boom Boom"), Al Green ("Take Me to the River"), and Slim Harpo ("I'm a King Bee"). Buddy is one of the last of a generation of great bluesmen. He no longer has the stamina of his youth (his set lasted a little over an hour), but he brought great energy during his performance. Between songs, he expressed his appreciation for the crowd, his love of the blues, and his fondness for Chicago.

Near the end of Guy's set, Bobby Rush joined him on stage for an encore duet of "Chicken Heads," which delighted the audience.

I was thrilled to see Buddy Guy for the fourth time. His retirement announcement and his advanced years will limit his future performances. He has not yet indicated whether he will continue performing at "Legends." If this was my final time, it was a fitting finale.


Episode 784

Brendan Burns on Creating Kubernetes

Brendan Burns is a Microsoft CVP and Distinguished Engineer; but he is most well-known as the co-creator of Kubernetes, which has become the default container orchestration tool. Brendan talks about creating Kubernetes and how this popular open source project has evolved since then.


Damen Fields was born with many disadvantages. His father died before he was born. His single mother raised him in poverty before marrying an abusive husband before she died. These events thrust young Damen into the social services system, where he suffered abuse at the hands of a series of foster parents.

Damen took the last name of his dead father, "Copperhead," in part because of his flaming red hair. He also embraced the nickname "Demon" - a nod to his fiery personality.

Barbara Kingsolver's 2023 novel "Demon Copperhead" tells the story of this boy as he grows to manhood. Kingsolver drew inspiration and many plot elements from Charles Dickens's "David Copperfield."

Demon's life parallels the life of Dickens's Copperfield in many ways. In addition to the single mother, abusive stepfather, and being orphaned at a young age, Demon faces torment at the hands of the unscrupulous U-Haul Pyles (a modern version of Uriah Heep), receives comfort from the kindly elderly Mrs. Peggot (Kingsolver's version of Mrs. Peggotty), and falls for the beautiful but irresponsible Dori (an incarnation of Dora Spenlow).

Despite borrowing many characters and story elements from Dickens, "Demon Copperhead" is Kingsolver's story. The action mostly takes place in the Appalachian region of southwest Virginia and reflects the culture and poverty of that area.

The book has many themes - the effect of expectations on motivation, the caste system in America, stereotypes of the Appalachians, hero worship, and the roles of the education system and health care system in poor communities.

Two themes dominate the novel - each in a different part. The first part reveals the difficulties - and sometimes horrors - of growing up in the foster care system. At age 11, Demon moves from home to home, and each "caregiver" exploits him in some way. One keeps all his foster children out of school so that they can work his tobacco farm; another puts him to work in a meth lab, then steal his earnings. Even the kindest of his foster parents grooms him for the high school football team that he coaches.

The second part of the novel focuses on the dangers of drug abuse. Drugs are freely available among high school students, and doctors frequently prescribe addictive painkillers to their patients. Demon's addiction begins with opioids (drugs that contributed to his mother's death) before escalating to harder narcotics. When asked if a friend is taking drugs, Demon responds, "I don't know a single person my age that's not taking pills."

"Demon Copperfield" could have been a clever marketing ploy, drawing in readers already familiar with Charles Dickens's classic story. But it is more than that.

Ms. Kingsolver's novel shared the 2023 Pulitzer Prize with Hernan Diaz's "Trust," a testament to its appeal beyond being a tribute to the Dickens classic.

The overarching theme of the book matches that of "David Copperfield." "Demon Copperhead" addresses the enormous challenges of growing up in institutional poverty and the hope of overcoming those challenges to become something more than what you were born to.


"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show."

The title character of Charles Dickens's novel "David Copperfield" relates his life story in the first person but opens with the above quote. He may be teasing the reader, or he may be uncertain of the answer himself - needing to record his life to decide whether or not he is its hero.

Copperfield takes us through his journey from boyhood to manhood.

David goes through a series of phases - in circumstance and personality - to lead him to his adult self. Some circumstances are thrust upon David, while others result from his actions.

David faces early hardships from his widowed mother's abusive second husband. He falls in love multiple times and meets a string of colorful characters. Some, like his family servant Peggotty, have his best interests. Others, like the sleazy Uriah Heep, are concerned only with their own gain.

A strength of the novel is the characters. Dickens introduces many people in this story. Some help David; others hinder him. Some turn out to be different than he initially perceives. Aunt Betsey first appears aloof and unlikeable but ultimately helps David in his life. David admires James Steerforth, who proves unworthy of that admiration.

Partially autobiographical, "David Copperfield" tells a moving story about the struggles in life and how people can overcome them through hard work, good fortune, and the help of friends. The author includes some of the tragedies of nineteenth-century British life. But it also contains much optimism.

If the book has a weakness, it is its length. Dickens often goes off on tangents about minor characters, devoting many pages to incidents that do not advance the plot. This practice is likely due to its origin as a magazine serial and the financial incentives to pay authors based on word count. But Dickens makes up for any weakness with the book's many strengths. He fills the narrative with humor, fascinating characters, and twists that keep the reader interested. These are why Charles Dickens embraced "David Copperfield" as one of his favourite novels, and why it has maintained its literary status for over a century and a half.


GCast 166:

GitHub Codespaces [GCast 166]

Learn the advantages of GitHub Codespaces and how you can use them to do all your development in the cloud.


Kevin Gates on Photography

Comments [0]

Episode 783

Kevin Gates on Photography [EPISODE 783]

Kevin Gates spends much of his free time taking photographs. He explains some of the art and science that goes into taking a great photograph.

Links:

https://www.dreaddontdie.com/
https://www.lensrentals.com/
https://dreaddontdie.notion.site/Kevin-s-Photography-Principals-aeffd5db8baf4617893db22f1d9b59c5


December 2023 Gratitudes

Comments [0]

1/7
Today I am grateful for a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago yesterday.

1/6
Today I am grateful for my first visit to Morton Arboretum

1/5
Today I am grateful to present at the Roanoke Valley .NET User Group and the organizers' patience when I lost my connection.

1/4
Today I am grateful for coffee with Hillel yesterday.

1/3
Today I am grateful for a feeling of optimism for the coming year!

1/2
Today I am grateful for the three years we had together.

1/1
Today I am grateful for all the good things that happened to me in 2023!

12/31
Today I am grateful to see "How the Grinch Stole Christmas - The Musical" last night.

12/30
Today I am grateful to see Marquis Hill in concert last night.

12/29
Today I am grateful for lunch with Angela yesterday.

12/28
Today I am grateful to talk yesterday with Jim for the first time in years.

12/27
Today I am grateful for the Detroit Lions' first Division Title in 30 years.

12/26
Today I am grateful to spend Christmas with my family yesterday.

12/25
Today I am grateful for the hospitality of my sister Debbie.

12/24
Today I am grateful to catch up on writing book reviews yesterday.

12/23
Today I am grateful to work with my personal trainer yesterday for the first time in a month.

12/22
Today I am grateful for an excellent week in southern California.

12/21
Today I am grateful for
- a visit to the Grammy Museum yesterday afternoon
- seeing an exciting Kings - Kraken hockey game at Crypto.com Arena last night

12/20
Today I am grateful for a visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum yesterday.

12/19
Today I am grateful to Sara for driving to Thousand Oaks to spend the day with me.

12/18
Today I am grateful to attend the Rams - Commandos game at SoFi Stadium with my cousin Bob yesterday.

12/17
Today I am grateful for a visit to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum yesterday.

12/16
Today I am grateful to serve as judge at an AI hackathon yesterday

12/15
Today I am grateful to kick off another year mentoring high school students at the Chicago Tech Academy

12/14
Today I am grateful:
- to catch up with Richard yesterday morning
- for many messages of support from my friends

12/13
Today I am grateful to attend the Chicago at a Crossroads - Quantum Event yesterday and hear Governor Pritzker and other talk about quantum computing.

12/12
Today I am grateful to see Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes in concert last night.

12/11
Today I am grateful to see an NFL game at Soldier Field yesterday for the first time in 18 years!

12/10
Today I am grateful for front-row seats to see Ana Gasteyer last night in Evanston.

12/9
Today I am grateful for dinner with John and Kim last night.

12/8
Today I am grateful:
- to speak at the TCS AI Road Show yesterday
- to complete the last of multiple major deliverables this year

12/7
Today I am grateful to attend an exciting Kalamazoo College victory at Lake Forest College last night.

12/6
Today I am grateful to co-present with Mary last night at the Chicago AI Meetup.


Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies" won the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for fiction - an award usually given to novels. But "Interpreter" is not a novel. It is a collection of short stories. And the stories are not connected narratively. None of the characters, places, or events tie together. Some stories take place in India, and some in the United States. However, each of the nine narratives features Indians or Indian-Americans.

And each explores relationships and the conflicts in those relationships. These relationships can be between lovers, a community, a parent, and a child.

Most of the stories end badly due to suspicion, adultery, wrongful accusations, or divorce. Lahiri brings life to the characters but leaves the reader with a sense of melancholy. My heart sank when overcommunication killed a marriage. Stories show the cruelness of others against their less fortunate family members and neighbors in "A Real Durwan" and "The Treatment of Bibi Haldar."

The final story redeems the others with a tone of optimism lacking in the previous eight. In "The Third and Final Continent," a visiting scholar fondly remembers coming to America and connecting with his 103-year-old landlord - the first American with whom he formed a bond.

"Interpreter of Maladies" is a well-written showcase of the diversity of thought among those from South Asia who immigrated to America and those who stayed in their home country.


2023 in Review

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In many ways, 2023 was a year of recovery and rebirth. I resolved some significant issues in mid-2022. This past year, I was able to focus on healing myself, improving my career, and helping those around me.

Family

Two engagements highlighted our family news this year. My son Tim proposed to his longtime girlfriend Natale on the Pont Neuf while they were vacationing in Paris. My niece Katie announced her engagement to her boyfriend Josh at Christmas dinner.
Tim completed his third year as an IT consultant at Microsoft. He received a promotion this year.
Nick is in his fifth season coaching the Kalamazoo College basketball team. The team began the season with a 4-1 record, their best start in over twenty years.


Friends

In 2023, I made an effort to reconnect with old friends. I have met so many excellent people over the years, and I missed talking with them, so I reached out to many and scheduled a phone call. I typically planned a half hour, but the conversation almost always lasted longer.


Travel

As many of you know, I set a goal years ago to attend a home game of every team in the four major professional North American sports - NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. I made significant progress in this list during 2023 when I attended home games of 2 NFL teams (Los Angeles Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers), 5 MLB teams (Anaheim Angels, Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres, and Texas Rangers), and 2 NHL teams (Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins.) I also saw many Kalamazoo College basketball games to watch my son coach the team. Most of these were in Kalamazoo, MI, but I also saw his team play in Lake Forest, IL, and Thousand Oaks, CA.

In the course of the year, I traveled to southern California twice, to Pittsburgh, to Houston and Dallas,

I can now see the end in sight of this list. I have ten or fewer unvisited sites for each league, and 28 visits remain among the four leagues.

Two things were noticeably missing this year. I had no international trips, and I had no work trips. I plan to change both of these in 2024. My team scheduled an offsite in the Seattle area in late February; and I submitted to several European conferences. DevSum in Stockholm, Sweden already accepted me as a speaker.


The Arts

I love concerts and live theater. I attended 43 concerts and 17 plays in 2023, which is a lot, even for me.

Here is a list of each I attended in the past twelve months.

Concerts

DateVenueArtist
Feb 17Andy's Jazz ClubShawn Maxwell
Feb 19City WineryDenny Lane
Feb 20City WineryDave Mason
Mar 4Salt ShedElle King
Mar 5AtheneumScythian
Mar 10Jazz ShowcaseBobby Broom
Mar 24Jazz ShowcaseChuchito Valdes
Mar 25City WineryThe Verve Pipe
Apr 2SPACEEmmaline
Apr 29Old Town School of Folk MusicGraham Nash
May 12Jazz ShowcaseFreddy Cole
May 13Hard Rock CasinoWayne Newton
May 14Old Town School of Folk MusicCowboy Junkies
Jun 10Old Town School of Folk MusicJames McMurtry
Jun 11Pritzker PavillionLos Lobos
Jun 15SPACECracker
Jun 27Huntington Bank PavillionNoel Gallagher
Jul 5City WineryNik West
Jul 13City WineryPuddles Pity Party
Jul 16Old Town School of Folk MusicIris Dement
Aug 10Lighthouse Art SpaceLenny White, Buster Williams, and Cyrus Chestnut
Aug 12Jazz ShowcaseCharles McPherson Quartet
Aug 22Huntington Bank PavillionGoo Goo Dolls
Sep 1Arcada TheatreDon McLean
Sep 13City WineryChris Kattan
Sep 30United CenterPeter Gabriel
Oct 11Cahn AuditoriumMary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin
Oct 19UIC ForumRachel Maddow
Oct 21Old Town School of Folk MusicSteep Canyon Rangers
Oct 23City WineryJustin Hayward
Oct 30United CenterQueen
Nov 2Copernicus CenterSteve Hackett
Nov 3Salt ShedLP
Nov 4Francis W. Parker SchoolHenry Winkler
Nov 10Chicago TheatreMy Morning Jacket
Dec 9SPACEAna Gasteyer
Dec 11City WinerySouthside Johnny
Dec 29Jazz ShowcaseMarquis Hill

Theater

DateVenueProduction
Jan 29CIBC TheatreChicago
Feb 10Chicago Shakespeare TheatreWuthering Heights
Mar 1Lion TheaterDrunk Shakespeare
Mar 2CIBC Theatre1776
Mar 17Chicago Shakespeare TheatreThe Comedy of Errors
Mar 19Marriott TheatreBig Fish: The Musical
Apr 14CIBC TheatreA Soldier's Play
Apr 15Nederlander TheatreJagged Little Pill
Apr 26Steppenwolf TheatreLast Night and the Night Before
May 27Shattered Globe TheatreLondon Road
Jun 10Studebaker TheatrePersonality: The Lloyd Price Musical
Jun 16Goodman TheatreThe Who's Tommy
Jul 7Lookingglass TheatreLucy and Charlie's Honeymoon
Sep 8City Lit Theater CompanyThe Innocence of Seduction
Sep 29Shattered Globe TheatreA View From the Bridge
Nov 20CIBC TheatreBoop! The Musical
Dec 30Cadillac Palace TheatreHow the Grinch Stole Christmas - the Musical

Museums

Last year, I created a new bucket list - visiting all 15 Presidential Libraries and Museums. This year, I saw three (George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan) bringing my total to five. In addition, I visited the Dallas Museum of Art and the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles for the first time this year.


Public Speaking

Focusing on my day job this year left me less time for public speaking at conferences and user groups. I did some virtual presentations. I delivered technical presentations at six virtual user groups (SpartaHack, Tulsa .NET User Group, Cleveland Azure User Group, Cleveland C# User Group, and the Memphis Python User Group) and in person at three user groups (Elastic Chicago User Group, AI Meetup, and TCS Road Show), as well as many presentations specifically for Microsoft partners. Next year, I hope to deliver more in-person presentations.


My Job

This was my first full year on the Global Partner Solutions team at Microsoft. It was a satisfying year during which I led a number of projects and contributed to even more. I am grateful to my current coworkers and managers for their teamwork and collaboration. The culture of this team contrasts starkly with that of my last team. My new managers encourage collaboration and highlight what their team members are doing correctly, in stark contrast to my previous manager.


Volunteering

I volunteered once again to mentor high school students as they create projects for the ISTC STEM Challenge. I have lost count. Is this my fifth or sixth year doing this?


Reading

I continue to read frequently this year, completing 44 books, which is fewer than the last couple of years. You can view my list and my reviews here. My current goal is to read every book awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. So far, I have read 36 of the 104 books granted this award.


Online

My online shows shows are still going strong. I decided an acceptable cadence is once per week for Technology and Friends and once every two weeks for GCast. I kept this up throughout the year. With fewer face-to-face interactions, T&F has almost completely shifted to virtual interviews.  At over 11,000 views, my most watched video of 2023 was Creating a JWT Bearer Token with Azure Active Directory [GCast 139]

I also continued to blog actively, publishing 240 posts in 2023 - an average of one every 1.5 days. I managed to post a new article every day in April, July, and August. I am especially proud of July in August because this is the first time I have published every day in back-to-back months and the first time I have posted every day in a 31-day month.

On social media, I began each morning by sharing something for which I am grateful. It has helped my mental health to start each day with this ritual. I am also in the habit of sharing interesting historical trivia, a song each day, and keeping track of friends' birthdays. You can follow me at the following links:


Personal Stuff

The year was mostly positive. The low point came a few months ago when a long-term relationship ended. It took me a while to accept this, but I am moving forward. I am grateful for the support of friends during this time.


Looking Ahead

My goals for 2024 are to continue to do well at my job, to travel more, and to do more public speaking - particularly in-person.

I will speak at the Michigan Tech Conference in March and at DevSum in Stockholm, Sweden, in June. I am waiting to hear from other conferences if they will accept my proposed presentations.

My team planned an offsite in Seattle in late February 2024 - an event scheduled and canceled in 2022. I am excited to meet my teammates - most of whom I have never seen in person.

I face the upcoming year with renewed optimism. 2023 was a good year overall, but I recognize what it lacked and will take steps to make 2024 even better!


Episode 782

Steve Smith on Clean Architecture [EPISODE 782]

Steve Smith describes Clean Architecture and how to create more maintainable, testable products.

Links:
https://youtu.be/yF9SwL0p0Y0?si=PJ-ziwZAB0FGQWF_
https://github.com/ardalis/CleanArchitecture


Grinch Cast 2023How do you create a musical about a story that others have told, set to music, and virtually everyone has seen?

Dr. Seuss published the enormously popular Christmas story "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" in 1957, and it became one of the most popular children's books of all time. In 1966, Chuck Jones, Ben Washam, Boris Karloff, and Thurl Ravenscroft brought the story to life with a musical animated television special. A 200 live-action adaptation and a 2018 animated movie followed. Most recently, Timothy Mason (book) and Mel Marvin (music) created a Broadway musical version of the Grinch's story. A current national tour of this passed through Chicago, where I saw it Saturday evening at the Cadillac Palace Theatre.

Just as in Seuss's original story, the green misanthropic hermit Grinch despises Christmas enough that he conspires to steal all the presents from the nearby town of Whoville to cancel Christmas and bring sorrow to the Whos that live therein.

The new musical incorporates many of the melodies from the 1966 TV show set to updated arrangements mixed with new numbers. The new songs are good, but the classics deliver the most punch. Near the end, the entire audience sang "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," as Max, the dog, flipped cards to reveal the lyrics. The sing-along refocused the many children in the audience whose attention span wandered.

Much of the dialogue was lifted directly from Seuss's book, and extra dialogue consisted of Seuss-inspired rhymes. Even the sets looked very much like Dr. Seuss's artwork.

There were a few differences. An older version of Grinch's dog Max (played beautifully by Bob Lauder) served as narrator of the story (replacing Boris Karloff's excellent job in the 1966 version). And muppet-like muppets appeared as a chorus of Whos a few times during the show.

Anthony Cataldo was excellent as the title character. His mangy green fur and long fingers made him creepy enough to scare anyone, but his wiry frame made him fun to watch.

This adaptation was very faithful to the source material. Singing and dancing stretched the running time to 85 minutes. The short run-time was perfect, given the number of young children in attendance and the shorter attention span typical of boys and girls.

I grew up with the Grinch's story. I read it and watched it many times as a boy and with my boys. I enjoyed this retelling of a familiar tale.


Marquis Hill Returns Home

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Marquis Hill 2023Although jazz trumpeter Marquis Hill currently lives in New York City, he retains his Chicago roots. Hill was born and raised on Chicago's south side and regularly returns to his home city to visit and perform. He played two sets at Jazz Showcase in Printer's Row on Friday evening. I caught his first set. The venue was as crowded as I have ever seen it.

Hill kicked off the show, chiming bells, a tambourine, and other small percussion instruments perched on a stool by his side. He returned to this stool, despite gravity toppling many of these instruments to the floor, where the pianist had to retrieve and replace them. In addition to the chimes of bells, he interspersed his playing with looped recorded samples of an unidentified musician describing the inspiration behind his music.

Hill's trumpet playing was flawless and emotional, but he was supported by three musicians (bass, drums, and piano), which he sometimes refers to as his "Blackett." The pianist stood out with his outstanding solo work.

The set was short - barely an hour - but he packed a lot into it, ranging from upbeat funk to slow ballads. It was enough.


GCast 165:

GitHub projects [GCast 165]

A GitHub project allows you to create and track issues, tasks, and bugs. Learn how to create and manage a GitHub project, create and manage work items, and create different views of your project.


Episode 781

Joël Hébert on API Security

Architect Joël Hébert discusses common attacks on Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), how you can protect your API, and some tools to help you.

Links:

https://42crunch.com

https://apisecurity.io

https://github.com/microsoft/restler-fuzzer

https://swagger.io/tools/swaggerhub

https://www.hackthebox.com

https://tryhackme.com


After stowing away on a boat from Darkest Peru, Paddington Bear came to the Brown family. He speaks fondly of growing up with his Aunt Lucy, who still resides in Peru at the Home for Retired Bears.

But we never get to meet Aunt Lucy.

Until "Paddington on Top."

Lucy appears in the final two stories of this book after Michael Bond mentions her in nine previous collections. She does not do much, but it is a delight to see her - if only briefly - after her and of Paddington's affection for her for so long.

"Paddington On Top" is another set of charming stories about the well-meaning bear who messes up with the best intentions. In this book, Paddington briefly attends school with the Brown children, gets taken in by a swindler, accidentally wanders into the wrong courtroom, attempts water skiing, signs up for a mail-order fitness class, plays rugby, and enjoys the company of his visiting Aunt.

It is seven more terrific stories from Mr. Bond.


I was in southern California four months ago but decided to return. I chose December 16-21 because:

  1. My son Nick's Kalamazoo College basketball scheduled two games in Thousand Oaks, CA this week
  2. LA Rams and LA Kings had home games this week, allowing me to make progress toward my bucket list of attending a home game for every team in the four major North American professional leagues

During my August trip, I stayed in Anaheim and San Diego - south of Los Angeles. For this trip, I mostly stayed in Thousand Oaks - north of LA - because this is where Nick's team played their games.

Day 1

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and MuseumI drove straight from the airport to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, CA. History would remember Nixon for his significant foreign policy initiatives (ending the Vietnam War and establishing trade with Communist China), but his role in the Watergate scandal overshadows almost everything else during his administration and taints his memory. The museum is in the backyard of the house in which Nixon was born. The graves of He and his wife Pat are between the two buildings. His entire life, from birth to death, is captured on a couple of acres.



Day 2

Bob and Me at the Rams gameI stayed in Thousand Oaks, and my cousin Bob lives in nearby Ventura, so we planned to spend Sunday together. Bob met me at my hotel, and we drove together to the Inglewood neighborhood of Los Angeles to see the LA Rams defeat the Washington Commanders. The game featured three turnovers and excellent LA defense. Washington made a game of it when their backup quarterback led a late touchdown drive to close to within eight points. But a blocked extra point and some timely first downs sealed the victory for the Rams.


Day 3

Kalamazoo College basketball gameMy friend Sara drove down to meet me. We had not seen each other in a few years, so we spent much of the day catching up before attending my son's basketball game. Redwoods College defeated them handily, but I got to have a beer with Nick after the game.


Day 4

Air Force One plane and motorcaedOn Tuesday morning, I visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, CA. The museum sits atop a mountain with beautiful panoramic views of the unspoiled area surrounding the buildings. The most interesting part of this museum was a temporary exhibit on the Jewish Holocaust, which featured artifacts from Nazi concentration camps and video recordings of eyewitness accounts. This museum is the home of the Air Force 1 plane and the Marine 1 helicopter that transported Mr. Reagan during his presidency. Guests are permitted to board these vehicles, but not to take them out for a spin.

In the afternoon, I watched Kalamazoo lose to a very good Cal Lutheran University team.

Nick and I spent his last evening in the state tasting beers at a local dive and eating In-N-Out burgers unavailable where we live.


Day 5

Grammy MuseumI woke up early Wednesday morning to drive Nick and one of his players to the LA Airport for a morning flight. Fortunately, I could check into my hotel early and enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the hotel's 35th floor as I watched a gentle rain fall outside the window.

With a free afternoon and a steady rain falling, I decided to spend a few hours at the Grammy Museum. It was a worthwhile experience. Special exhibits on hip-hop music, the famous Roxy nightclub's 50th anniversary, and Latina singer Shakira made it extra enjoyable. The special exhibits seemed to take up more than half the museum, which was fine with me.

LA Kings vs Seattle Kraken ice hockey gameIn the evening, I bought a ticket to see the LA Kings take on the Seattle Kraken in ice hockey at Crypto.com Arena. The home team dominated the first period but could not solve Seattle goaltender Joey Daccord, who stopped forty-two shots. Seattle's offense came to life after 20 minutes, taking a 2-0 lead before Blake Lizotte cut the lead with a shorthanded goal late in the third period to make the final score 2-1.


Day 6

On my final day, I found a quiet place for breakfast and an outdoor cafe to sip a latte (the rain continued, but the temperature was warm enough to sit under an awning) before heading to the airport. LAX maintains its reign as the worst airport in America. A poorly designed rental car experience caused this trip's headache. The rental car facility sits about three miles from the airport, and the shuttle bus must navigate LA  traffic and the gridlock of the airport terminal driveway. I dropped off my car 2.5 hours before my flight, yet my luggage and I almost missed the plane due to a long ride on the shuttle.

But I made it, and so did my luggage.
 

Final Thoughts

Southern California is known for its great weather, but it rained steadily during most of my visit. The rain did not diminish my enjoyment of this vacation. I got to spend time with my son, visit an old friend, watch Nick's team play (even though the results were disappointing), and check two more home stadiums off my bucket list. I even finished reading a book*.

This was an excellent way to close out 2023!

* "A Visit from the Goon Squad" by Jennifer Egan, which I highly recommend.


Episode 780

Fernando da Silva on the NIST Cybersecurity Framework

Fernando da Silva is a security architect who focuses on protecting customers, partners, and users. He discusses the 5 pillars of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework and how you can use them to protect your systems.


GCast 164:

Using Git and GitHub Together [GCast 164]

Learn how to the git command line tool to manage sync local changes with your GitHub repository.


Episode 779

Andy Randall on Linux and Azure

Microsoft works with Linux a lot these days. Andy Randall discusses new Azure features that Microsoft is creating to support Linux, contributions to Linux distributions, and how Microsoft works with partners to improve support for Linux.


Ana Gasteyer 2023I bought the tickets months ago but had no idea what to expect from Ana Gasteyer. I knew her from her six seasons on Saturday Night Live, and I saw her perform as Elphaba in a production of Wicked. But I have not followed her career since. Would she tell jokes? Would she sing? Would she dance? Would she tell stories?

It turns out that she did all the above Saturday night at Evanston's SPACE. Mostly, she sang. And mostly, she sang Holiday songs - or, as she called them, "secular seasonal songs."

Tonight was a homecoming for Gasteyer, who graduated from Evanston's Northwestern University. Her daughter (a current NU student) was in the house.

Midway through the show, Ana brought out a bucket of airline-sized bottles of Fireball cinnamon whiskey to hand out to selected audience members.

Many numbers came from the American songbook and featured winter or holiday themes - "Let It Snow," "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "Sleigh Ride," and "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm." Ana altered some of the lyrics for comic effect. In "Let It Snow," she celebrated the departure of party guests who overstayed their welcome with the line: "They finally said 'good night.'" She also mixed in many originals, such as "Nothing Rhymes with Christmas," "Secret Santa," and "Sugar and Booze." She drew many songs from her 2019 Christmas album "Sugar and Booze."

Backed by a solid six-piece band (piano, bass, guitar, drums, woodwind, and percussion), Ms. Gasteyer performed for over two hours. Most songs featured jazz arrangements led by musical director Julian Fleisher.

She closed with a rousing version of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch," followed by a moving rendition of "Children, Go Where I Send Thee."

I came home with a feeling of holiday contentment and a couple of tiny bottles of Fireball.


Episode 778

Nic Jackson on Hashicorp Vault

Nic Jackson discusses Hashicorp Vault - a tool that helps you store and manage application secrets. He talks about how the tool works, in what situations it is most valuable, and how to use it.


November 2023 Gratitudes

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12/3
Today I am grateful to see an exciting overtime hockey game last night - my first home Pittsburgh Penguins game.

12/2
Today I am grateful for dinner and ping pong last night with Randy and Pam.

12/1
Today I am grateful to attend a Spartan victory last night as the women's basketball team won at DePaul.

11/30
Today I am grateful to the students who told me that my explanations helped them better understand some concepts.

11/29
Today I am grateful to kick off and help coach a GitHub DevOps workshop with a partner this week.

11/28
Today I am grateful for the friends in my life.

11/27
Today I am grateful to catch up on editing videos last night.

11/26
Today I am grateful to spend a few days in Michigan with family and friends.

11/25
Today I am grateful to spend yesterday with John and Kim.

11/24
Today I am grateful to spend Thanksgiving with my family yesterday and to my niece Katie for hosting us all.

11/23
Today I am grateful for the hospitality of my sister Debbie.

11/22
Today I am grateful to arrive safely in Michigan late last night.

11/21
Today I am grateful to learn a lot of new things about GitHub this past week.

11/20
Today I am grateful to see the world premiere of Boop! The Musical last night.

11/19
Today I am grateful to experience the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival last night.

11/18
Today I am grateful for a drink with Suzanne last night.

11/17
Today I am grateful to attend AI Camp AI, ML, and Data Meetup last night.

11/16
Today I am grateful to watch the Ignite keynotes virtually.

11/15
Today I am grateful to see two exciting basketball games at the Champions Classic last night.

11/14
Today I am grateful for new winter gloves.

11/13
Today I am grateful that repairs are finally complete in my building's garage, so I no longer need to park two blocks away.

11/12
Today I am grateful for dinner and a basketball game in Kalamazoo, MI with John and Kim yesterday.

11/11
Today I am grateful:
- for coffee with Glenn yesterday morning
- to see My Morning Jacket in concert last night

11/10
Today I am grateful to hang out with Tommy all week

11/9
Today I am grateful to attend networking events after the conference yesterday.

11/8
Today I am grateful to attend KubeCon for the first time.

11/7
Today I am grateful:
- to be on a Tech Community Panel at the Veeam workshop yesterday
- to speak on Azure integration and API tools at Elastic's meetup last night

11/6
Today I am grateful for dinner with Cassandra and her co-workers last night.


David and Henry 2023Henry Winkler came to the attention of the world (and to me) when he starred as Fonzie on the hit TV show "Happy Days." Fonzie was an iconic character - a man so cool he could start a jukebox by tapping it in the right place or snap his fingers to attract beautiful women or silence a crowd with a single word.

But that character was not Henry Winkler. By his own admission, Winkler grew up the opposite of cool. He wanted desperately to be accepted by the popular kids at school. He wanted the approval of his parents, but his undiagnosed dyslexia led to low grades, which led to his parents' disdain. His German parents called him "dummer Hund," which translates to "dumb dog."

"Being Henry: The Fonz... and Beyond" is an honest story about an actor's rise to success and his challenges along the way.

Growing up, Winkler lacked self-confidence in everything except acting. He was so enthusiastic about performing that he managed to qualify for Yale drama school despite his reading issues. In his audition, he improvised much of the Shakespearean dialogue he was supposed to deliver.

After struggling for a few years following graduation, he won the role of Fonzie. Audiences loved the lovable tough guy character so much that the producers restructured the show, shifting the focus from Ron Howard's Richie Cunningham to Winkler's Fonzie, which discouraged Ron Howard. Despite this, Howard and Winkler remained close friends, and Winkler had nothing but praise for Howard in his book.

"Happy Days" ran for eleven seasons, was a top-20 rated show for eight of those seasons, and spawned multiple spin-offs, including the successful "Laverne and Shirley" and "Mork and Mindy."

When the show ended, Winkler struggled to maintain his acting career without being stereotyped as a cool greaser. He worked steadily for decades before beginning an association with Adam Sandler and appearing in a handful of Sandler's successful comedies. The two met when Winkler called Sandler after hearing his name mentioned in Sandler's Saturday Night Live performance of "The Chanukah Song." The two remained friends afterward.

Winkler's career continued to climb when Bill Hader cast him as acting teacher Gene Cousineau in his dark comedy series "Barry." This role earned Henry his first Primetime Emmy Award.

Henry Winkler has experienced success, marginal success, and mega-success throughout his five decades of acting. But not everything came easy. His dyslexia hindered much of his career, and he found relationships difficult - in large part due to the lack of support and love from his parents. Years of therapy and a strong support group helped this.

I saw and met Henry on his recent book tour, where his "Barry" co-start D'Arcy Carden, interviewed him. D'Arcy had kind things to say about him, and Henry's smile and responses reinforced his reputation as one of Hollywood's good guys.

What impresses me about Henry Winkler's life is that he was able to be successful without being spoiled by the Hollywood lifestyle. By all accounts, he remains grounded and loyal to his friends. His kindness came across in his writing. "Being Henry" tells the actor's story with honesty, vulnerability, and gratitude. So many of his anecdotes are about people who helped him along the way. Every few chapters, his wife Stacey chimes in to relate a story of their life together in her own words.

Henry is in a good place now. He is approaching 80, his career is at its strongest since his Fonzie years, he has a good family and good friends, and he has learned to accept the things in his life that held him back. Watching "Happy Days" was a part of my life as a boy, and I am happy to see Mr. Winkler remain successful. He attributes his success to talent, work, and luck. We should all be so lucky.


GCast 163:

Getting Started with GitHub [GCast 163]

Learn how to create, manage, and delete a GitHub repository


Episode 777

Ashton and Ryan Clark on TicketFalcon

Ryan and Ashton Clark talk about their online ticketing business, including the history of the business and the technical issues they needed to tackle to make it successful.

https://www.ticketfalcon.com/


"Prequel" by Rachel Maddow

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Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany in the 1930s changed the course of European history. But Hitler and his Nazi Party inspired many Americans as well. These American groups nearly succeeded in their efforts to support the Nazi cause and prevent America from helping to defeat the Third Reich's efforts to take over the world.

Rachel Maddow's "Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism" explores the rise of Naziism in the United States before and during World War II. Many people contributed to this movement with a range of motivations. Some opposed American involvement in any foreign war; others advocated fascism as a superior form of government over democracy; and many embraced Hitler's Great Lie that a secret cadre of international Jews controlled the world's economy and politics.

The significant actors included politicians, businessmen, and preachers. Organizations like the Silver Shirts and the Christian Front actively advocated and trained for the violent overthrow of the United States government. Congressmen used their franking privilege to mass mail Nazi propaganda to US citizens at taxpayer expense. Others incorporated Nazi messaging into their speeches.

Most of the players were unknown to me, but too many wielded enormous power. Some congressmen and journalists pushed for the United States to join the war on the side of the Nazis. Industrialist Henry Ford was so enthusiastic in his hatred of Jews that Adolf Hitler came to admire him. Hitler quoted Ford in his book "Mein Kampf" and even hung a portrait of Ford in his office. Aviator Charles Lindbergh delivered many public speeches in favor of Hitler's government.

The racist message of these far-right groups came close to succeeding. Many American citizens and authorities viewed Communism as a more significant threat than fascism, and these hate groups pushed the narrative that most Jews were Communists. The American Fascist movement failed because of the people who dared to stand up to them. Sadly, very few of the conspirators were ever brought to justice. An attempt to bring to justice the Nazi sympathizers who sought to overthrow the government was unsuccessful. The trial dragged on so long and was so chaotic that the judge eventually died of stress. Prosecutor O. John Rogge brought back from the Nuremberg Trials evidence of direct ties between Nazi officials and US politicians. His report was suppressed by the Truman administration, which hoped to avoid a public scandal. The public ignored the report when it was finally released decades later.

History has forgotten this xenophobic movement, yet it could have had disastrous consequences for democracy in America. We mustn't forget so we can recognize the signs when others try something similar.


Boop! The Musical!Betty Boop was the most famous star in the world. She sang and acted and captivated audiences wherever she went. But her world was not the real world. It was the black and white animated world of America's jazz age. Bored with her life of celebrity and unsure of her identity, Betty borrows her grandfather's invention to transport herself to the "real world" She finds herself at a New York City Comic-Con in 2023, surrounded by a culture of escapism. Soon, she befriends bright teenager Trisha and her stepbrother Dwayne, who help her to understand her new surroundings.

Boop originally appeared in a series of shorts created by legendary cartoonist Max Fleischer.

Nearly a century later, a production team of Bob Martin (script), David Foster (music), Susan Birkenhead (lyrics), and Jerry Mitchell (director / choreographer) brought Betty's story to the stage. "Boop! The Musical" premiered at Chicago's CIBC Theatre Sunday night before a sold-out audience, where it will run until Christmas Eve before heading to Broadway. I was fortunate to attend the world premiere event.

Jasmine Amy Rogers excels as the energetic Betty and newcomer Angelica Hale steals scene after scene as young Trisha.

Foster is best known for his work as a producer and arranger for popular musical artists, but he has penned hits for Chicago, Kenny Loggins, Whitney Houston, and others. His first attempt at writing a Broadway musical is wildly successful.

Characters in the animated world act with the exaggerated body language of cartoons. The scenes between Betty and her new friends are touching and believable, despite the implausible storyline.

The audience laughed and cheered their approval throughout the show.

"Boop! The Musical" is a fun-filled fantasy for all the senses.


Episode 776

Travis Shepherd on Flying an Airplane

Travis Shepherd is a software engineer at Kin + Carta; but, he has been earning his pilot's license in his free time. He talks about many of the technical, mechanical, and mental aspects of flying an airplane.


We are bombarded by many messages every day. We retain some of them but forget most. Why? What makes a statement or story "stick" in our minds while others quickly dissipate? Brothers Dan and Chip Heath explore this topic in their 2007 book "Made to Stick."

The authors use the mnemonic "SUCCES" to express ideas that make a message more "sticky." The letters stand for Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, and Stories. Each chapter covers one of these ideas.

Simple

Focus on a single idea. Trying to cover too many ideas distracts from your main point. The compactness of the message is essential.

Unexpected

Defy expectations to grab your listener's attention. You can open with a counterintuitive example or express an idea in an unexpected way. They tell of a Southwest Airlines flight attendant who told jokes during the pre-flight safety demonstration to hold the passengers' attention. I have been on a flight with this flight attendant.

Concrete

Provide examples to convey your ideas. The authors use this technique repeatedly in the book, providing specific examples to illustrate and reinforce abstract concepts.

Credible

Make these ideas believable by relating them to something the listener understands.

Emotional

The critical point here is that people will respond to stories about individuals more than general stories of groups of people. People react more strongly to a message that hits their emotions than to facts and figures.

Stories

Place your ideas within a story to keep the listener engaged. The authors describe three categories of plots for a compelling story: the Challenge Plot, the Connection Plot, and the Creativity Plot.

My Thoughts

One concept that resonated with me is the curse of knowledge. We assume that our target audience knows what we know and has the same perspective and priorities. It is difficult to put ourselves in their position, which hinders responsibility. I strive to reduce my assumptions about my audience.

This book is helpful for educators, marketers, storytellers, public speakers, and anyone who wants to convey an idea or persuade others.

The Heath brothers filled "Made to Stick" with examples and studies to illustrate their points. They used an example from the Bill Clinton campaign to demonstrate a message's Simplicity ("It's the economy, stupid") and one from the Reagan campaign to illustrate testable credibility ("Are you better off now than you were four years ago?").
The authors deliver their advice in a straightforward, conversational tone. This simplicity makes the book's ideas stick with the reader.


"The Fraud" by Zadie Smith

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David and ZadieI discovered author Zadie Smith through her debut novel "White Teeth," which I loved.

Her latest novel - "The Fraud," is about history. Sort of. She based the book on the true story of Roger Castro - a butcher who claimed to be Sir Roger Tichborne, an English nobleman believed to have drowned in a shipwreck years earlier. The Tichborne Claimant bears little resemblance to Sir Roger, but the working class rallies around him as one of their own. The Claimant's case is shaky, but two people believe him - Sir Roger's mother and Andrew Bogle, a former slave and free servant of the Tichborne family.

We experience the story primarily through the eyes of Eliza Touchet, cousin and housekeeper of once-popular author William Ainsworth.

Although Ms. Smith invented many situations and conversations in the novel, many characters were real people. Ainsworth, Tichborne, and Touchet were all real. Touchet died at an early age, so this story imagines her life had she survived for many more years. Even Charles Dickens makes an appearance.

The story touches on many themes - slavery and abolition; art versus commercial success; the role of intelligent women and black men in Victorian society; the role of the press; and the rights of the poor.

As in her excellent debut novel "White Teeth," this book explores the backstory of many of its characters, providing layers to the story and motivations of the characters.

The book covers three stories in detail: The Tichborne trial, the life of Eliza, and Bogle's journey from African landowner to Jamaican slave to English servant. Smith tells each story well, but she ties them together with less expertise than she did in the many subplots of "White Teeth."

The novel leaves many questions unanswered, not the least: To which fraud does the title refer? Is it the man claiming to be Tichborne despite lacking much of the knowledge possessed by that nobleman? Was it Ainsworth, whose novels were once popular but faded to obscurity in the last years of his life and were forgotten after his death? Or was it the British people who presumed to rid themselves of the guilt after abolishing the slave trade but allowing slavery in the colonies?

Whatever the answer, the story takes the reader on an interesting journey.


GCast 162:

Managing Azure Subscriptions [GCast 162]

Learn how to create and manage Azure Subscriptions.


Episode 775

Kristina Swanson on Microsoft Partner Programs

Partners work with Microsoft to create and sell applications and solutions on top of their technology. Partner Technology Specialist Kristina Swanson describes types of partners, programs available to them, and the benefits and requirements of those programs.


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