# Sunday, December 15, 2019

PaintedBirdA young boy wanders alone from village to village in eastern Europe during World War II, experiencing fear, abuse and perversion at nearly every turn. His hair, eyes, and skin are dark, so he is labeled a Jew and/or a Gypsy - both capital offenses under the Nazi occupation.

The cruelty and depravity he encounters only worsens as his journey continues. For six years, he escapes a terrible situation in one village to a new (often worse) situation in another village. One farmer gouges out the eyes of a field hand he suspects of flirting with his wife; another man locks the boy in a room with a large violent dog every night; he witnesses one family engaged in incest and bestiality. Against it all is the backdrop of the Nazis shipping Jews, Gypsies, and other minorities to suffer and die in concentration camps.

He is beaten and nearly murdered multiple times; nearly everyone he meets is superstitious, ignorant, and cruel. Many of the peasants are active participants in rape, murder, and animal abuse.

The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski is a twisted coming-of-age story that shows what happens when a child grows up knowing nothing but fear and hatred and chaos. There is a stark contrast between the straightforward first-person narrative style and the horrifying tales of chaos the narrator experiences.

It is a brutal story that left me shaken. It is powerful and it is a classic. But you need to brace yourself before reading it.

Sunday, December 15, 2019 2:37:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, December 14, 2019

TheManWhoLovedChildrenChristina Stead's The Man Who Loved Children details an extremely toxic relationship.

Sam and Henny have been married long enough to have six children together; but they don't like each other and barely speak to one another. Worse, they spend much of their energy bad-mouthing one another to their children.

Henny is better and spiteful and filled with hate for just about everyone and everything.

Sam is arrogant and self-important and racist and misogynistic.

Neither is a good parent. Sam spoils his children and Henny neglects them. The eldest daughter Louisa gets the worst of it. Henny hates her because she is the product of Sam's first marriage (a woman adored by Sam who died shortly after childbirth) and Sam insults and publicly ridicules Louisa for her looks (Louisa is homely and overweight) and her ambition to become a writer.

Sam and Henny each try to play the innocent victim; but each is horrible: Sam because of his narcissism and need for control and Henny because of her melodrama and blatant meanness. Each is horrible because each tries to weaponize the children against the other, forcing them to take sides. Only Louisa recognizes this, which is why she is so unhappy.

Things get worse after Sam loses his job and the family is forced to move from Washington, DC to the slums of Baltimore, where Henny - once an industrialist heiress - borrows money from multiple lenders, with no intention of repaying these loans.

As the story wears on, Sam's habit of baby talking to his children becomes more and more annoying; and his overestimation of his own intelligence and morality wear thin. I never grew to like Henny, but I began to despise her less and to understand her descent into madness as the story revealed more of Sam's character.

For me, the story became real enough that it made me uneasy. Stead makes us uncomfortable to see the dark inside of this highly dysfunctional family. I liked the foreshadowing involving Louisa and a neighbor's cat. But I did not like the relationship. And I feared for the future of the children.

Saturday, December 14, 2019 2:08:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 9, 2019

Episode 588

Walt Ritscher on Try .NET

Walt Ritscher describes Try .NET and how to use it to enhance your programming demos.

Monday, December 9, 2019 9:47:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, December 5, 2019

GCast 66:

Creating a Repo in Azure DevOps

How to create an Azure DevOps project and a code repo within that project.

Azure | DevOps | GCast | Screencast | Video
Thursday, December 5, 2019 9:10:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, December 2, 2019

Episode 587

Robert Green on Microsoft Graph

Robert Green describes how to use Microsoft Graph to query information from Microsoft directories and services.

Monday, December 2, 2019 2:45:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, December 1, 2019

Today I am grateful for:
-Breakfast with old friends in Plymouth
-Watching my son coach his basketball team in Kalamazoo
-Watching the Spartan regular-season finale in East Lansing

Today I am grateful for dinner last night with a group of old friends from my college days.

Today I am grateful for a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with my family yesterday.

Today I am grateful I was able to avoid the worst of the storms while driving across Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan yesterday.

Today I am grateful to Hattan for spending so much time teaching me about DevOps this month.

Today I am grateful for bike-riding weather in late November.

Today I am grateful for a weekend in Kalamazoo.

Today I am grateful to see my son's Kalamazoo College team defeat Case Western yesterday.

Today I am grateful for lunch yesterday with Kelly, Kara, and Elizabeth.

Today I am grateful for a tour of an airline's command center at the Dallas-Ft Worth airport yesterday.

Today I am grateful for dinner last night in Dallas with Jason, Tobiah, and Paris.

Today I am grateful for BBQ with Kendall last night in Dallas.

Today I am grateful for an electric blanket.

Today I am grateful for an amazing week in Tokyo.

Today I am grateful to visit the Yebisu Museum of Beer and the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography yesterday.

Today I am grateful for a visit to TeamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum yesterday.

Today I am grateful for:
-Lunch yesterday with Peter, who I haven't seen in over 30 years;
-A baseball game at the Tokyo Dome last night
-A walk around Yoyogi Park

Today I am grateful for:
-a visit to Meiji Jingu temple yesterday morning
-completing a successful OpenHack this week

Today I am grateful for a visit to Asakusa Temple yesterday.

Today I am grateful for Udon with new friends in Roppongi last night.

Today I am grateful for a walk around Hibiya Park in Tokyo yesterday.

Today I am grateful to arrive in Japan for the first time.

Today I am grateful for dinner last night with LaBrina and Becky.

Today I am grateful for a party last night at the Fisher Pavilion in Seattle.

Today I am grateful for dinner last night with the Diversity and Inclusion team.

Today I am grateful to spend yesterday writing code with colleagues.

Today I am grateful for a visit to the Museum of Flight in Seattle last night.

Today I am grateful for dinner with teammates in downtown Seattle last night.

Sunday, December 1, 2019 2:14:25 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, November 25, 2019

Episode 586

Jim Wooley on Entity Framework Performance

Jim Wooley describes the newest features of Entity Framework and factors to consider when increasing performance.

Monday, November 25, 2019 9:56:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, November 24, 2019

I had never been to Tokyo; I had never been to Japan; in fact, I had never been to Asia.

Until last week.

20191112_130029 1I was asked to work at an OpenHack in Tokyo, and I quickly agreed to an opportunity to visit this faraway place for the first time.

The OpenHack went well. Attendees learned how to work with data in the cloud and I served as a coach for a team of Japanese developers. It was a joy to work with other smart people and help people learn. I even had a chance to deliver two presentations to the attendees – one on Azure Data Factory and one on Azure DataBricks.

I was asked to buy coffee for the team as punishment for the two days I arrived late to our morning standup meeting (even though I was to blame for only one of those late arrivals)

IMG_6558The day prior to the OpenHack, we took a hike through nearby Hibiya Park, which featured two scenic ponds, a fountain, and colorful wildlife.

Until Thursday evening, I was mostly focused on the OpenHack. But I had all day Friday and Saturday (and parts of some other days) to explore this new city and I took advantage.

IMG_6501Tokyo is a large urban area with an enormous population, but there are many parks and natural areas within the city. My colleague Madhu talked me into waking up early Wednesday and Thursday morning to visit some shrines in the city before heading to work. It was completely worth it, even though we ended up buying coffee for the team.

Sensō-ji is a Buddhist temple near a market area in Asakusa. Outside the temple is an impressive garden with admirable landscaping and a stream flowing through it. 

Tokyo (3)Meiji Jingu is a shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shōken, who were instrumental in bringing Japan into the Industrial Age in the early 20th century. The shrine is in the center of a beautiful forest in the middle of Tokyo.

Tokyo (5)Friday afternoon, I met with my friend Peter. Peter and I went to college together and he moved to Japan about 30 years ago, so I had not seen him in decades. We met by the Shibuya Crossing - an intersection of 6 major roads that allows hundreds of pedestrians to cross in any direction simultaneously when the signal changes. Peter wanted to eat at his favourite nearby restaurant, so he took me to (wait for it) TGI Friday's! It wasn't much different than the American version, but it was good to spend time with Peter after all these years. After lunch, we took a walk around Yoyogi Park, which had some nice fountains and walking trails.

Tokyo (7)On Friday night, I attended a baseball game at the Tokyo Dome with three other coaches. South Korea easily defeated Mexico as part of the Global Baseball Battle, which featured the top 12 national teams. We sat in box seats down the left field line with the Mexican fans and pretended to be big fans ourselves.

Tokyo (6)We also went on one of the rides in the amusement park across the street.

Saturday, we went to the TeamLab Borderless - a multimedia museum that features animated projections on walls floors, and ceilings; along with physical objects, music, and uneven floors. It is very much a multi-sensory experience.

Tokyo (8)Saturday evening, I made my way to Akihabara, known as "Electric Town" because of all the electronics shops. I found a tiny hole-in-the-wall curry place and a Japanese comic book shop and walked through the neon jungle that is this neighborhood before I made my way back to my hotel.

Tokyo (9)My final day in Tokyo was a relaxing one. I went for a walk around the Ebiyu neighborhood where I was staying. I visited two nearby museums: The Museum of Yebisu Beer and the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum. There were no English language tours at the beer museum, so I walked around the open area and sampled one of their beers. At the Photographic museum, I saw works by this year's national award-winning photographers. I was surprised to notice that some videos were classified as "photography". I spent less than an hour at each museum before making the long trek to the Narito airport for my journey home.

Most people I encountered spoke very little English - this was fair, given that I know only a handful of Japanese words - but they were very friendly. One woman came running out of a coffee shop I had just exited to return a $5 bill I had dropped inside. Another man went inside a train station with us (costing him at least 100 Yen) to point the directions to the train we needed.

Tokyo is a surprisingly clean city, given its size and population density. One almost never sees litter on the ground, even though there aren't many trash cans. People simply don't drop trash on the ground.

This city is much more beautiful at night, when every building is illuminated, which contrasts dramatically with the plain colors of the daytime. The difference is like night and day.

Tokyo (4)Riding the subway during rush hour can be soul-crushing and body-crushing. People are packed so tight that I struggled to move my arms. During this time, I noticed the other riders seemed to put themselves in a trance - either buried in their cell phones or closing their eyes during the ride. Sometimes it was so crowded that it was impossible to reach or read one's cell phone. On one ride, the train broke down and did not move for 15 minutes; Yet no one complained or even moved.

And the service at my hotel (The Westin Tokyo) was excellent. One example: I regularly sleep with a CPAP machine and I have a pillow at home with a notch where the CPAP mask can rest undisturbed while I sleep. I brought the machine to Tokyo with me and left it by the bed. When I returned to my room in the evening, the hotel staff had provided a notched pillow for me.

Tokyo (2)I am grateful to Raj and Omkar and Lisa and Amanjeet and Lisa for spending time with me outside the OpenHack as we explored Tokyo together.

And I am grateful to Hattan for providing me with recommendations of things to do in Tokyo.

I hope it will not take me another 57 years to return. And I am happy to buy more coffee when I do.


Meiji Jingu shrine

Sensō-ji Temple, Asakusa

Hibiya Park

Yoyogi Park

Baseball game

TeamLab Borderless


Museum of Yebisu Beer

Tokyo Photographic Art Museum

Shibuya Crossing

Sunday, November 24, 2019 3:23:55 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, November 23, 2019

InfiniteJestInfinite Jest by David Foster Wallace takes place in the near future - mostly in and around Boston, MA.

Things are a bit different in the future.

Calendar years are no longer referred to by ordinal numbers; instead, the naming rights to each year is auctioned off to commercial products. Years now go by names such as "Year of the Perdue Wonderchicken", "The Year of the Trial Size Dove Bar", and "Year of the Tucks Medicated Pad". Most of the story takes place during the "The Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment".

After contaminating the entire northeastern part of the United States, the US has coerced Canada into annexing the polluted region and using it as an international toxic waste dump. This region is known as "The Great Concavity", probably because of its shape, but possibly because of the frequency of babies born missing a skull.

Canada, Mexico, and the US are now part of a larger nation, known as the Organization of North American Nations, aka "ONAN", which may or may not be a reference to the Bible's most famous masturbator.

The novel follows dozens of characters and multiple story lines. Some are in a private Massachusetts high school that focuses on educating elite tennis players; others are in a nearby drug and alcohol rehabilitation center; still others are involved in international intrigue, espionage, and terrorism.

There is no shortage of quirky characters in Wallace's novel. Most are neurotic and some border on psychotic. Characters are damaged in a variety of ways, from being abused as children to the suicide of loved ones to drug addiction. One beautiful girl had acid thrown in her face by her mother, who was aiming for her philandering father.

They all search for happiness, but not seem to find it.

It's a difficult book to follow for the following reasons

-It is extremely long, has many characters, and many subplots

-It contains hundreds of footnotes and some of the footnotes have footnotes

-It sometimes switches backward and forward in time and even to long descriptions of characters' dreams

Some of the storylines came together; but many did not (or, if they did, I didn't see it). And that frustrated me.

Having said that, I did enjoy Wallace's writing and the characters he created and the imagination he put into individual scenes. But I failed to see the overall arc of the novel.

I'm tempted to read this book again to catch what I missed, but the 1000+ pages makes that a daunting task.

Saturday, November 23, 2019 7:27:05 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, November 18, 2019

Episode 585

Angela Dugan on Team Dynamics

Angela Dugan describes shat she is doing to improve communication and dynamics within her team.

Monday, November 18, 2019 9:38:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)