# Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Fahrenheit451Guy Montag is a fireman. Unlike the world of today, firemen in Montag's dystopian near-future are charged with burning books. Books are illegal because books encourage free thought, which makes it difficult for the government to control its citizens.

One day, Montag meets Clarisse, a high school girl who is not afraid to think about the world and question what she sees. Montag enjoys his conversations with Clarisse and is jarred when she suddenly disappears - an apparent victim of an automobile accident. Montag begins to question his life and the morality of his job. He courts disaster when he steals a book he is supposed to burn.

Fahrenheit 451 is one of the great novels of  the twentieth century. Not only is it a compelling story; it is a warning against anti-intellectualism and those who mindlessly follow authority. It is a warning of choosing comfort and vapid entertainment over freedom; and allowing power to be too concentrated. 65 years after its publication, these issues are still relevant.

This is a book everyone should add to their reading list. It is a simple parable but packed with so much that I have read it three times.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018 11:21:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 16, 2018
Monday, July 16, 2018 9:07:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, July 15, 2018

TheJungleBrace yourself before reading Upton Sinclair's the The Jungle.

The Jungle tells the story of European immigrants lured to Chicago with promises of high-paying jobs in the meat packing industry. The promises of a good life turn out to be false - particularly for the family of Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkus. Jurgis arrives believing that he can handle the hard work and provide for his new wife and his extended family. He is strong and hard-working, and he quickly finds a job in the local stockyards.

But they have entered a world where the entire system conspires to keep down the poor. Wages are reduced downward and workers are not paid for time lost.

Even time lost to injury or illness.

Even injury or illness caused by unsafe and unsanitary working conditions, which is the norm in Chicago's meatpacking industry.

A dishonest realtor tricks the family into buying a home with hidden costs and his entire family must go to work to make ends meet. The meat trust exploits them all by keeping them in in unsafe and unhealthy conditions. Foremen, policemen, businessmen, judges, and politicians are all corrupt and use their power to prey on the powerless.

As time passes, the family falls farther into debt and deeper into despair. Some die, some are maimed, some are arrested, some are blacklisted by all the local companies, one is raped with impunity by her boss, and one disappears without a trace. Despite their best efforts, their fate seems almost inescapable. They work hard and play by society's rules but are cast aside anyway. Before long, the hope and optimism with which they arrived slips away.

Sinclair was a devout socialist and concludes the novel with a pitch for socialism as a cure for the dangers of unchecked capitalism. It's interesting to read this today over a hundred years after its publication and with the perspective of history. Socialism never took over the US and has produced mixed results in those nations where it was adopted.

But the novel did have an impact on society - mostly by calling attention to the unsanitary products sold by the meat packers. This led to increased regulation and the formation of what would become the Food and Drug Administration.

The preaching about socialism in the last few pages makes the ending feel a bit weak, but the story is a powerful one and I could not help but feel for the heartbreak experienced by Jurgis and his family. The reader feels both sympathy and outrage at the injustices they suffer.  There is a reason why this novel is considered an American classic.

Sunday, July 15, 2018 10:54:53 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, July 12, 2018

GCast 6:

Azure SQL Database

How to create an Azure SQL database in the Azure portal.

Thursday, July 12, 2018 9:16:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, July 10, 2018

I needed to convert a bunch of PDF files with pictures into image files.

I volunteered to create a slideshow for a family reunion and and one cousin sent me dozens of PDFs, which don't play nice with my editing software.

After playing around with several online converters, I settled on PDFtoPNG.

You don't need to install anything to use this tool.

Open a browser and navigate to https://pdftopng.online/

The start page shown in Fig 1 is  pretty intuitive.

Fig 1

Click the large green [Choose File] button to open a "File Open" dialog, as shown in Fig. 2.

Fig 2

Select a file and click [Open]. You can only convert one file at a time, but each file takes only a few seconds.

A "Converting file" message (Fig 3) displays, while the system does its thing.

Fig 3

When the conversion process is complete, a [Download] button displays, as shown in Fig 4.

Fig 4

Click this button to save your newly-created PNG file to disc. If the PDF file contains multiple images, a ZIP file containing all the images is created.

Using this tool, I was able to quickly convert dozens of PDFs to PNG files and add them to my slideshow. It was simple, free, and I did not need to install or uninstall any software.

Photos | Tech
Tuesday, July 10, 2018 5:10:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 9, 2018
Monday, July 9, 2018 9:38:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, July 5, 2018

GCast 5:

Azure Databricks

Learn how to create a free library and Jupyter notebooks hosted in Azure.

Thursday, July 5, 2018 9:43:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, July 2, 2018
Monday, July 2, 2018 9:35:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, July 1, 2018

Today I am grateful for:
-My first pair of prescription eyeglasses
-A visit yesterday to the Chicago Women's Park and Gardens

Today I am grateful for my first visit to IKEA.

Today I am grateful to David for taking time yesterday to answer all my questions.

Today I am grateful that I can binge-watch TV shows on demand.

Today I am grateful to hear Laretha Weathersby and the JW Williams Blues Band at Blue Chicago last night on my first visit to the venue.

Today I am grateful for a conversation with a financial adviser yesterday.

Today I am grateful to attend the Chicago Food Truck Festival yesterday.

Today I am grateful to the organizers of #BeerCityCode for an excellent conference.

Today I am grateful for:
-Drinks with J. Tower at Founder's last night
-The hospitality of Chris and Tracy last night

Today I am grateful for a nice Italian dinner with friends last night to celebrate the end of the school year.

Today I am grateful
-to go to an optometrist yesterday after years of neglect
-to go to the Art Institute of Chicago for the first time this year.

Today I am grateful to celebrate Father's Day last night with my son Tim.

Today I am grateful to spend a night in my own bed.

Today I am grateful for a week in Norway - my first visit to this country.

Today, I am grateful for:
-a walk around Bergen, Norway
-a visit to 2 art museums
-a chance to try some exotic Norwegian foods

Today I am grateful for a train ride across Norway and a boat ride through the fjords.

Today I am grateful for my first time speaking at and attending NDC-Oslo.

Today I am grateful for the #ndcoslo after-party.

Today I am grateful for a boat ride around Oslo.

Today I am grateful to work on a Machine Learning project this week with a train company in Oslo.

Today I am grateful for BBQ in Norway with Jimmy, Adam, and Dominick.

Today I am grateful for a few days in Romania

Today I am grateful to play Dungeons & Dragons in Transylvania.

Today I am grateful for another excellent #itcamp

Today I am grateful to Dan for picking me up at the CLJ airport and driving me to my hotel late last night.

Today I am grateful for free wine on European airlines.

Today I am grateful to finish a bunch of blog posts and screencasts yesterday.

Today I am grateful for dinner with Tim last night and to Adam and his daughter for stopping by.

Sunday, July 1, 2018 3:10:52 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, June 30, 2018

DarknessAtSethanonA Darkness at Sethanon concludes Raymond Feist's Riftwar Saga - a trilogy that became a tetralogy when Feist decided to rewrite volume 1, splitting it into 2 books.

An invasion by the dark sorcerer Murmandamus threatens the world of Midkemia and ultimately all other worlds in the Riftwar universe. Murmandamus is determined to capture the city of Sethanon and the powerful lifestone buried beneath it. Our heroes from the previous novels (Pug, Tomas, Arutha, and others) gather the knowledge, weapons, and allies they need to try to defeat Murmandamus.

There are twists. Characters we thought dead are found alive, former foes become allies, and Murmandamus's motivation is not what it seems.

This book is larger in scope than its predecessor as the characters travel across dimensions and even travel backwards in time to the beginning of their universe. The time travel sequence gives the characters and the reader insights into the history of the universe and its many sentient and magical races.

Feist is better at action than at character development. Not that the characters are bad - it's just that he jumps them ahead abruptly, rather than letting us watch them mature and otherwise change. And this book has plenty of action, including several large battle scenes.

I'm glad I stuck with this series, as it got better as it went along.

Saturday, June 30, 2018 4:55:28 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)