"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

Comments [0]

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

Comments [0]

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

Comments [0]

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

Comments [0]

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

Comments [0]

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.


LP at the Salt Shed 2023LP does not talk a lot. At least, I did not hear much talking when I saw them in concert Friday evening at the Salt Shed.

Instead, LP launched from one song to the next with a fervor that projected a love of playing and singing.

The non-binary singer was born Laura Pergolizzi but now goes by the initials "LP" and identifies as non-binary, using "they/them" pronouns. They have released six albums and three EPs, and they drew from many of them this evening.

Their voice has the power to bring passion to their rock melodies. The backing band contributed to the energy, particularly a female guitarist who shredded song after song.

I only recently became aware of LP's music. Still, I recognized many songs from the evening, including "Burn It Down," "One Like You," and "Long Goodbye" - a passionate song that closed the set before their encore. "One Last Time" was the final song of the evening, leaving the audience energized.

On this night, LP let the music do their talking.


Steve Hackett and his band at the Copernicus Center 2023Steve Hackett first gained fame as a virtuoso guitarist when he joined the progressive rock band Genesis near the beginning of their career. Hackett has stayed true to his roots. He has continued the tradition of playing progressive rock music and still performs the Genesis music of his youth.

Thursday evening at the Copernicus Center, Mr. Hackett paid tribute to some of that music, performing Genesis's fourth studio album, "FoxTrot," in its entirety. The album was released 50 years ago last month and still holds up well.

Hackett reserved his "FoxTrot" replay for the band's second set. Their first set consisted of songs from his extensive solo career. Steve has assembled a top-notch group of musicians to accompany him: Roger King on keyboards, Jonas Reingold on bass, Craig Blundell on drums, multi-instrumentalist Jonas Reingold, and Peter Gabriel sound-alike Nad Sylvan on vocals.

Many guitarists switch instruments between songs to change the sound they wish to create. Steve Hackett keeps the same electric guitar but modifies the output electronically between - and sometimes during - each piece. The effect is the same, but the transitions are faster and smoother.

The concert reached its climax two hours into the show. Steve brought out an acoustic guitar to perform "Horizons" before the rest of the band joined him and launched into the epic "Supper's Ready" suite, which dominated most of FoxTrot's second side. It was a great send-off to the evening.

For those of us who loved Genesis and remember the days when they pioneered the progressive rock movement, this night was a journey back in time. And a pleasant one, at that.


Episode 774

Steve Andrews on A Safe Work Environment

Steve Andrews has developed a neuro-social model of emotional well-being. From this model, he developed ten dimensions for leaders to consider:

  1. i. Safety
  2. ii. Identity
  3. iii. Messages
  4. iv. Agency
  5. v. Positive Social Connection
  6. vi. Environment
  7. vii. Mission and Purpose
  8. viii. Body and Brain
  9. ix. Human Needs
  10. x. Strengths

He discusses each of these dimensions and how leaders can use them to cultivate a safe and productive work environment.

Links: 

Looking for Bears


October 2023 Gratitudes

Comments [0]

11/5
Today I am grateful to meet Henry Winkler last night.

11/4
Today I am grateful to see LP in concert last night.

11/3
Today I am grateful to see Steve Hackett in concert last night

11/2
Today I am grateful to attend Nick's season-opening basketball game last night in Kalamazoo.

11/1
Today I am grateful for all the times I got to take my boys Trick-or-Treating when they were young.

10/31
Today I am grateful to see Queen in concert last night.

10/30
Today I am grateful to see all the kids Trick-or-Treating in my building yesterday and to get to know my neighbors a little better.

10/29
Today I am grateful to receive vaccines yesterday for COVID-19 and the flu.

10/28
Today I am grateful to talk with Sara yesterday for the first time in years.

10/27
Today I am grateful to be part of a career panel at the I.C. Stars event yesterday.

10/26
Today I am grateful to finally replace the motherboard in my laptop

10/25
Today I am grateful the BDPA Chicago entrepreneurship meetup last night

10/24
Today I am grateful to see Justin Hayward in concert last night.

10/23
Today I am grateful to attend Mass in person today for the first time since before the pandemic.

10/22
Today I am grateful to see the Steep Canyon Rangers in concert last night.

10/21
Today I am grateful to help with the STEAM Hack-to-Learn event yesterday.

10/20
Today I am grateful to see Rachel Maddow at UIC last night.

10/19
Today I am grateful for my first visit to the Southside Hacker Space.

10/18
Today I am grateful to Pete and Kevin for helping me configure a laptop, so I can get some work done while my work machine is repaired or replaced.

10/17
Today I am grateful for a good night's sleep.

10/16
Today I am grateful for a long bike ride yesterday to clear my head of negative energy.

10/15
Today I am grateful to carve some pumpkins this week for the first time in many years.

10/14
Today I am grateful for 10 years at Microsoft

10/13
Today I am grateful to talk with Martin yesterday for the first time in a long time.

10/12
Today I am grateful to see Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin in concert last night.

10/11
Today I am grateful to repair my bike lock.

10/10
Today I am grateful for lunch with Robert and Colette yesterday.

10/9
Today I am grateful to attend my first pickleball lesson yesterday.

10/8
Today I am grateful to attend The Moth Grand Slam last night

10/7
Today I am grateful for lunch with Tobias yesterday.

10/6
Today I am grateful to begin a brief stay-cation / long weekend.

10/5
Today I am grateful to finish writing 7 blog posts last night.

10/4
Today I am grateful for my friends

10/3
Today I am grateful to pass the Microsoft AZ-204 exam yesterday

10/2
Today I am grateful:
- to visit the Guinness Open Gate Brewery on opening weekend
- to visit a haunted house this weekend


Steve Hackett and his band, in concert 2023Steve Hackett first gained fame as a virtuoso guitarist when he joined the progressive rock band Genesis near the beginning of their career. Hackett has stayed true to his roots. He has continued the tradition of playing progressive rock music and still performs the Genesis music of his youth.

Thursday evening at the Copernicus Center, Mr. Hackett paid tribute to some of that music, performing Genesis's fourth studio album, "FoxTrot," in its entirety. The album" was released 50 years ago last month and still holds up well.

"FoxTrot" was reserved for the band's second set. Their first set consisted of songs from Hackett's extensive solo career. Steve has assembled a top-notch group of musicians to accompany him: Roger King on keyboards, Jonas Reingold on bass, Craig Blundell on drums, multi-instrumentalist Jonas Reingold, and Peter Gabriel sound-alike Nad Sylvan on vocals.

Many guitarists switch instruments between songs to change the sound they wish to create. Steve Hackett keeps the same electric guitar but modifies the output electronically between (and sometimes during) each piece. The effect is the same, but the transitions are faster and smoother.

The concert climaxed at the end. Steve brought out an acoustic guitar to perform "Horizons" before the rest of the band joined him and launched into the epic "Supper's Ready" suite that dominated most of FoxTrot's second side.

For those of us who loved Genesis and remember the days when they pioneered the progressive rock movement, this night was a journey back in time. And a pleasant one, at that.


Brian May and Adam Lambert of Queen, 2023Queen was one of the most successful rock bands of the 1970s and 1980s - both in the studio and on tour. The quartet of Freddy Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon sold out arenas worldwide. Mercury passed away in 1991, and Deacon retired shortly afterward. But May and Taylor recruited Adam Lambert a decade ago and revived the band. This year's tour brought Queen to the United Center for two nights. I attended the first show on Tuesday evening.

For an hour before the Queen concert began, the stage was blocked by a screen containing a projection of a 3-D crest, like the ones that graced the band's famous "Night at the Opera" and "Day at the Races" albums. The crest was set against an animated clockwork. As the show began, the music grew in volume, and metallic beings started to climb through the clockwork mechanisms until the screen became translucent, then transparent, then elevated to reveal the band, which launched into a medley of "Radio Ga Ga" and "Machines (Or Back to Humans)."

It was a high-energy moment, and the band maintained this energy throughout the evening, performing for over two hours in front of a sold-out arena.

Freddy Mercury was a flamboyant character with an impressive vocal range and a larger-than-life personality. Mercury's death in 1991 effectively ended the band's initial run. When the band revived in 1991, they recruited vocalist Adam Lambert. Like Mercury, Lambert is a flamboyant character with an impressive vocal range and a larger-than-life personality. He does not channel Freddy as much as he draws inspiration from him.

One comes to expect impressive light shows at an arena concert, and this was no exception. The lighting and the video images morphed impressively with the music. But we also saw many practical effects and props. Brian May performed a guitar solo as he was elevated above the stage and as astronomical images swirled about him while spheres descended from the ceiling; Adam Lambert performed "Bicycle Race" while sitting on a chrome motorcycle; Leaves falling from the ceiling augmented a giant video of an autumn tree.

The show also presented some video images of the band: 72-year-old Roger Taylor's drum solo followed a video of him performing a timpani solo in his twenties; the music video of "Bohemian Rhapsody" accompanied the band's performance of their operatic composition; And videos of Freddy Mercury performing brought the crowd to a frenzy.

But it was the music that made the show.

The band performed some deep album cuts (my favourite was Brian May accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, while singing the sci-fi folk song "39"), but they dedicated most of the set list to their hits, including "Another One Bites the Dust," "Fat Bottomed Girls," "Killer Queen," and "Don't Stop Me Now."

They could have ended the concert with "Bohemian Rhapsody" rather than ending the first set with that song. Instead, they returned to the stage for three more songs, ending with "We Are the Champions" - an anthem that carried Queen during their heyday.

This version of Queen still has the power to electrify audiences.


GCast 161:

Sorting a Microsoft Word Document by Headers [GCast 161]

Learn how to sort the contents of a Microsoft Word document by the headers in that document


Episode 773

Cameron Turner on Predictive and Generative AI

Kin + Carta Vice President Cameron Turner discusses how his company approaches Artificial Intelligence solutions for their customers. He talks about the kinds of solutions, how to use data, and ethical considerations.


I set aside my friend Paddington Bear for a year before returning to him this week when I picked up one I had not yet read.

"Paddington Takes the Air" is another charming collection of stories about the anthropomorphic bear who means well but always inadvertently causes trouble. In this book, he enters several competitions for which he is unsuited but at which he miraculously does well.

He enters a horse-riding contest and enters the ring with a professional wrestler. The final two stories tell of Paddington's invitation to a ball, his attempts to find the proper clothes and his dance contest at the event.

In other stories, the bear takes a trip to the dentist, attempts to mend the clothes of his neighbor, and attempts to solve a crime as an amateur detective.

Paddington was born in darkest Peru but now lives with the Brown family in London. His stories continue to bring a smile to my face.


Justin Hayward 2023Before I talk about Justin Hayward's performance Monday evening at Chicago's City Winery, I want to talk about Mike Dawes. Dawes performed a solo warmup act before Hayward's show. He is a guitar virtuoso who uses every bit of the instrument, moving his fingers and palms up and down the entire neck of the guitar to make his six-string sound like multiple twelve-strings. If you have a chance, he is worth seeing perform live.

Dawes was part of Justin Hayward's band during the main act, along with keyboardist Julie Ragins and flutist Karmen Gould, who all provided vocal harmonies.

Justin delighted the audience by opening his show with "Tuesday Afternoon" - a big hit for the Moody Blues. Justin was the lead vocalist and frontman for the popular progressive rock band. He played some of his solo compositions this evening, but the audience was most excited to hear the Moody Blues classics. Justin did not disappoint, performing "The Voice," "Never Comes the Day," "Your Wildest Dreams," and "Question." With each song, the crowd burst into cheers upon recognizing the opening chords.

When Hayward sang a beautiful version of the mega-hit "Nights in White Satin," we assumed that would close his show, but he remained for two more songs. He extended his set beyond two hours rather than leaving and returning for an encore.

At 77, Hayward still retains an impressive vocal range, and the music he made famous with the Moody Blues tested that voice this evening.

He impressed me and the sold-out audience.


I had a chance Friday to volunteer at the STEAM Hack-to-Learn. The event was held at the Chicago downtown Microsoft office.

The event brought in students from suburban Chicago and featured several guest speakers, as well as hands-on activities.

Jeff Gettis opened the event, describing his journey from Chicago's south side to his 20 years at Microsoft.

Jon Browning, CEO of Global Mentorship Initiatives, spoke about the importance of networking in building your career, pointing students to LinkedIn and ChatGPT as tools to help them in a job search.

Author Gayle Keller hosted a panel of industry professionals who answered questions about professional careers.

Ravi Penmetsa gave an overview of Artificial Intelligence.

The talks were all interesting, but I was most impressed by the kids' questions, which showed a genuine curiosity about a career in IT. They asked questions like "What is the most interesting part of your job?" and "What would you be doing if you were not in this field?"

After the presentations, the students broke into teams and rotated between building applications with low-code and no-code tools and learning to dance to K-pop music.

At the end of the day, each team stood at the front of the room and shared what they learned.

It was an excellent chance to experience young people learning something new.


Episode 772

Jon Skeet on Enhancing His Church's A/V System

In his spare time, Jon Skeet has been helping his church improve its Audio and Video production. He talks about the "Zoom and Enhance" and "At Your Service" applications he created to control audio and video, control cameras and displays, translate speech, and allow people to participate in the service from home.

Links:
https://tinyurl.com/at-your-service


SteepCanyonRangersNorth Carolina bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers performed two shows Saturday evening at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I attended the second show, which started promptly at 8 PM.

I was in a depressed mood when I walked into the theatre. Never mind why. But the music changed that. Beautiful melodies and tight harmonies brought me back from the precipice.

The Rangers have maintained great stability over their 23-year span. However, Aaron Burdett replaced founding member Woody Platt on guitar and vocals last year. Burdett melded with his new teammates admirably. A remarkable aspect of this six-piece band is that every member is a world-class musician. Each had a chance to shine, whether in a solo or as part of the orchestration, and I saw no flaws. 

With sixteen albums from which to choose, they selected songs like "Be Still Moses," "Afterglow," "Birds of Ohio," and "Fruits of my Labor" - all of which went over well. All their music sounded great, from high-energy to instrumentals to gospel to love songs to sorrowful ballads.

Their version of the Traveling Wilburys' "End of the Line" made me smile.

Music has the power to lift us up when we are down, and the Steep Canyon Rangers did just that.


"Be Mine" by Richard Ford

Comments [0]

I thought we had heard the last of Frank Bascombe, Richard Ford's philosophical everyman.

Ford wrote about Frank when the protagonist was in his 30s ("The Sportswriter"), 40s ("Independence Day"), 50s ("The Lay of the Land"), and 60s ("Let Me Be Frank with You"). Frank has survived two divorces, cancer, a gunshot to the chest, and the loss of a child.

Richard Ford returns to Bascombe's life in his 70s with a new novel: "Be Mine."

Frank's adult son Paul is diagnosed with terminal ALS. With little time left, Paul and his father travel to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota for experimental treatment; then embark on a road trip together to visit Mount Rushmore. Paul and Frank have never been close, and this trip is their last chance to salvage their relationship. One problem is that the two are too much alike. Father and son consider themselves philosophers because they each ask questions about the world. The difference is that Frank asks most of his questions silently, while Paul tends to blurt out whatever crosses his mind. Paul is angry at his father for years of neglect, and his comments shift from unfunny jokes to obnoxious sarcasm. Ford may be challenging the reader to feel sympathy for an unlikeable character who happens to be dying; or we may be seeing Paul through the filter of Frank's perceptions as he tries to alleviate the guilt of being a poor father. Regardless, it makes for an uncomfortable dynamic.

Like the previous four volumes in this series, "Be Mine" is Frank's narration and philosophy told from inside his head as it occurs.

Ford gives a wink to the fourth wall with lines like "We think what people write down in their private moments will always reveal crucial evidence of their innermost selves. Only, what goes on in anybody's head is rarely worth knowing." It is ironic, given the stream-of-consciousness style of the novel.

Also, like the previous novels, the incidents of this novel take place over a few days around a holiday. In the past, it was Easter ("The Sportswriter"), Independence Day ("Independence Day"), Thanksgiving ("The Lay of the Land"), and Christmas ("Let Me Be Frank with You"). "Be Mine" takes place around Valentine's Day, allowing the cynical Bascombe family to voice their opinions on a sentimental holiday. And like the earlier books, the plot takes a back seat to characters and their musings.

Every decade, Richard Ford revisits his most famous protagonist, who ages at about the same rate as his creator. There is no guarantee that we have seen the last of Frank Bascombe. But, if so, this is as good a send-off as any.


I recently passed the Microsoft AI-102 exam.

This exam primarily covers Azure Cognitive Services, such as Computer Vision, Text Recognition, Speech Recognition, Language Understanding (LUIS), and the Bot Framework.

My primary study tool was the [self-study guide on Microsoft Learn](https://learn.microsoft.com/en-us/credentials/certifications/exams/ai-102/). I spent about an hour a night on this for about a week. I have used most of the services already, but many I had not used in years.

Although the exam covered all areas, I received a disproportionate number of questions about the Bot Framework and LUIS.

The exam covers nothing about Open AI, ChatGPT, or Codespaces. I expect that Microsoft will soon update the exam to include these newer technologies or create a separate exam.

The exam includes about 45 questions that are either multiple-choice or drag-and-drop. The drag-and-drop questions ask you to select the required steps and sort them. As with most Microsoft exams, you can go back to review a question and change your answer if you want.

The question count displays at the top, along with the time remaining (I think I was allowed 2 hours total). But the question count is misleading. After completing the questions, a case study was displayed, followed by a series of about six questions related to that study. In this section, you are not allowed to go back to review or change an answer. You are permitted to reread the case study. The case study contains a lot of information, and not all of it is relevant to the questions, so this section is as much a reading comprehension test as anything else.

Here is my advice to prepare for the exam.

Review the training materials. Schedule time each day to study them.

Open the Azure Portal and try out each service described in the training materials. Poke around and become familiar with the various options.

Take the exam shortly after finishing the training.

Make sure you allow enough time for the case study at the end.

Get a good night’s sleep before the exam. You will need to focus your mental energies.

Good luck.


Episode 771

D'Arcy Lussier on Microsoft's OpenAI Journey and Strategy

D'Arcy Lussier discusses the partnership between Microsoft and OpenAI, how we got here, what the future holds, and how you can take advantage of the technologies built from this partnership.

Links:
https://top500.org/


Mary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin at Cahn AuditoriumMary Chapin Carpenter and Shawn Colvin. Shawn Colvin and Mary Chapin Carpenter.

I expected that one would perform as the warmup act and the other (presumably MCC) would be the headliner. But Wednesday night at Evanston's Cahn Auditorium, they took the stage together for a performance lasting over two hours.

Each lady armed herself with a guitar and a voice that remains strong in their sixth decade.

Sometimes, Mary stood in front and sang while Shawn took a seat. Sometimes, Shawn stepped forward while Mary took a break. But they were at their best when they performed together - alternating verses and harmonizing as if they had been singing together for years.

Of course, the old friends have been singing together for decades. It showed in their music, and it showed in their banter. They debated the merits of having a tuning device. They joked about their choice of clothing. And they finished each other's sentences, as old friends do.

Both women are accomplished songwriters, but this evening included their interpretations of many other songwriters. They played the music of folk singers like Steve Earle ("Someday") and Lucinda Williams ("Passionate Kisses"). And they played some surprises, including The Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" and The Beatles' "I'll Be Back". Each song was delivered with the heartfelt passion of two performers who continue to love their craft.

And their music.


Ten years ago today, I began a new journey.

October 14, 2013 was my first day working at Microsoft. My job title was Technical Evangelist. My responsibilities included teaching others about technology and engaging the US developer community. I spent a lot of time creating demos and presentations and delivering them at conferences, user groups, colleges, and code camps. I spent time at startup incubators, showing them how to use Azure to help their business. Microsoft was trying to promote their phone and Windows 8, so I quickly learned how to build applications for these platforms, and I hosted workshops to teach others what I learned.

The job required me to move to Chicago, but it took me across the country. The decision to take the job and move from Michigan was easy. My two sons had just graduated (one from high school, the other from undergraduate university) and moved out of state to continue their education. I had moved to Michigan eleven years earlier only to be closer to them, and that reason no longer existed.

To say this decision was life-changing would be an understatement. The job allowed me to work with amazing people, help others in the community, take control of my life, and get paid for things I was already doing for free.

That role lasted me about 4-5 years before Microsoft decided to eliminate the Evangelism team. It was the best job I ever had. Since then, I have worked in two other organizations at Microsoft. I have learned a great deal at each position.

Two of my favourite things are learning something new and teaching others. My time at Microsoft has allowed me to do a lot of both. I love working with smart people; this company is loaded with them. More importantly, they are almost always willing to share their knowledge with me.

Not every day was perfect. Not every year was great. I have had some great managers and some bad managers, which makes the biggest difference in my job satisfaction and performance. At one point, I came close to leaving the company because a manager actively discouraged collaboration and frequently made up and repeated falsehoods to justify his negative opinion of me. I survived that toxic environment, and I survived the recent round of layoffs.

Last year, I joined the Global Partner Solutions team as an architect, where I help our partners design solutions for their customers. I work with amazing people, and I learn something new every day!

This week, I have a new manager following the promotion of my former manager. The old and the new are good people who care about others, making me optimistic for the future.

I doubt I will stay here another ten years, but I fully expect to be here another five. I wonder if time will pass as quickly as it has since 2013.


GCast 160:

Azure Monitor Diagnostic Settings

Learn about Azure Application Insights Alerts and how to create and manage them.


Episode 770

Nisaini Rexach on AI in Education

Nisaini Rexach discusses the impact Artificial Intelligence has had on education, and how the educational system can adapt to rapidly-evolving tools.


Elizabeth Strout introduced us to Olive in her 2008 novel "Olive Kitteridge," for which she won the Pulitzer Prize.

Olive returns in "Olive, Again." Like the first book, this one consists of a series of short stories - some focused on Olive and some in which she appears as a minor character or only a mention.

This volume focuses more on Olive's life and actions in the fictional small town of Crosby, Maine. She remarried after the death of her husband, Henry. As in the first novel, noteworthy events happen between chapters, such as the wedding and Henry's death.

We see Olive aging (from her 70s to her 80s). Her body deteriorates, but she grows as a person. She begins to recognize the coldness and unkindness she displayed throughout her life. She regrets this and strives to change.

My favorite story was "Helped," about Suzanne - a woman who returned to Crosby after her father's death in a fire. How Suzanne's father acquired her inheritance troubles her, and she contemplates the mistakes in her life and how to deal with them.

Not far behind is "Motherless Child." In this story, Olive witnesses her daughter-in-law publicly scolding her son and realizes she did the same to Henry throughout their marriage. A moment of epiphany sets Olive on a path of redemption.

A few characters appear from Strout's other novels - "Amy and Isabelle" and "The Burgess Boys," which made me want to read these books.

I enjoyed "Olive, Again" at least as much as its predecessor.   


<< Older Posts | Newer Posts >>