# Sunday, September 13, 2020

Two years ago, Joey Harker stumbled into another dimension and ended up joining Interworld - an elite fighting force consisting of versions of himself from multiple Earths who can walk between worlds and strive to prevent the bad guys from taking over the Earths of all the various dimensions.

In The Silver Dream, new characters are introduced. Most significant is Acacia Jones. She has the ability to "walk" between worlds but is clearly not another version of Joey.

During a training mission, Joey loses a teammate, discovers there is a traitor within Interworld, and is transported through time. 

This book is the sequel to Interworld and suffers from even less Gaiman than the first novel. The writing itself was mostly delegated to Mallory Reaves, daughter of Interworld co-author Michael Reaves.

This is a good Young Adult book and a quick read, but well below what Neil Gaiman fans have come to expect. And it ends with a cliffhanger, which pretty much means you must read book 3 to finish the story.

Sunday, September 13, 2020 9:26:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 12, 2020

In 1960, Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird, which has been rightly hailed as one of the greatest American novels of all time. 55 years later, her publisher released Lee's second novel Go Set a Watchman, which included some of the same characters as the first.

Watchman takes place two decades after Mockingbird. 26-year-old Jean Louise "Scout" Finch has returned to her childhood home of Maycomb, Alabama to visit her father Atticus. If you know Jean Louise from the earlier novel, you will not be surprised to learn she has grown into a strong-willed, independent woman during her time in New York. The novel follows Jean Louise as she interacts with the town folks and flashes back occasionally to her teenage years in Maycomb.  The story climaxes when JL discovers that Atticus holds racist beliefs inconsistent with her perception of him.

Although originally marketed as a sequel, Watchman is now seen as an early draft of Mockingbird. There is very little overlap in the scenes of the two novels, but Lee did reuse several passages in her final version of Mockingbird.

In addition, the central story of Mockingbird (Atticus defending Tom Robinson - a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman) is mentioned in Watchman, but some of the details are different.

I am happy this is not a sequel, because I disliked this version of Atticus. I grew up knowing Atticus as a hero worthy of admiration. He was open-minded and fighting for the rights of the oppressed negroes of the south; but here, he is transformed in 20 years into one who sees blacks as inferior to whites and unfit to govern themselves. In his 50s, he stood up to the status quo of a racist society; In his 70s, he saw the NAACP as a greater threat than Jim Crow laws.

Here are a few of examples of Atticus's philosophy in Watchman:

"Now think about this. What would happen if all the Negroes in the South were suddenly given full civil rights? I’ll tell you. There’d be another Reconstruction. Would you want your state governments run by people who don’t know how to run ’em?"

"Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?"

"Honey, you do not seem to understand that the Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people. You should know it, you’ve seen it all your life. They’ve made terrific progress in adapting themselves to white ways, but they’re far from it yet. They were coming along fine, traveling at a rate they could absorb, more of ’em voting than ever before. Then the NAACP stepped in with its fantastic demands and shoddy ideas of government—can you blame the South for resenting being told what to do about its own people by people who have no idea of its daily problems?"

"If the scales were tipped over, what would you have? The county won’t keep a full board of registrars, because if the Negro vote edged out the white, you’d have Negroes in every county office."

It is comforting to think this is a different Atticus from an alternate universe and that Ms. Lee discarded him before deciding to publish her masterpiece. I can see hold onto the Atticus I know as the real one.

Saturday, September 12, 2020 9:53:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, September 10, 2020

GCast 93:

Handling Spring Boot Errors with ControllerAdvice

In this video, you will learn how to use the ControllerAdvice pattern to centralize error handling in a Spring Boot application.


GCast | Java | Screencast | Video
Thursday, September 10, 2020 9:06:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, September 7, 2020

Episode 625

Peter de Tender on Azure Certification

Azure trainer Peter de Tender talks about what it takes to acheive Azure certification.



Monday, September 7, 2020 1:04:09 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, September 6, 2020

Today I am grateful to see the Dee Alexander Quartet at Jazz Showcase last night.

Today I am grateful for a 45-mile bike ride yesterday - my longest ride ever.

Today I am grateful for sushi.

Today I am grateful for the man that my son Tim has become.

Today I am grateful for an early birthday celebration with Tim last night.

Today I am grateful to successfully complete a project with a great team.

Today I am grateful for the puns of John Alexander.

Today I am grateful for a walk around Brookfield and a drive through Palos Park yesterday.

Today I am grateful for Friday afternoon "Happy Hour" chats with my team.

Today I am grateful to see Marty Sammon and Rick King playing blues at Kaiser Tiger last night.

Today I am grateful for kind words from my manager during my review at the end of the Fiscal Year.

Today I am grateful for an unexpected free lunch.

Today I am grateful to spend an afternoon working at a coffee shop for the first time in months.

Today I am grateful for great architecture in this city.

Today I am grateful to spend Ray Bradbury's 100th birthday in his hometown of Waukegan, IL.

Today I am grateful for the imagination of Ray Bradbury.

Today I am grateful to attend a live concert for the first time in months - Sharel Cassity at Jazz Showcase last night.

Today I am grateful for great movies.

Today I am grateful for a new photo of the sunrise over the ocean shared each morning by Dave Noderer.

Today I am grateful for a flu shot yesterday.

Today I am grateful for all the natural areas in the city.

Today I am grateful for my first visit to Marquette Park and to Dan Ryan Woods yesterday.

Today I am grateful to attend a virtual Happy Hour yesterday with Becky and her friends.

Today I am grateful for 3 doctor appointments this week.

Today I am grateful to have my son visit this past week.

Today I am grateful for a hot, fresh latte each morning.

Today I am grateful for the safety of my family and my home.

Today I am grateful to spend the weekend with my sons.

Today I am grateful for a delicious Italian dinner with Nick and Tim last night.

Today I am grateful for my new scale.

Today I am grateful that Larissa arrived safely in Michigan yesterday for her first step toward college this fall.

Today I am grateful to participate in the Microsoft mentorship program.

Today I am grateful for a nearby park where I can sit on a bench and read a book.

Today I am grateful to finalize my will and power of attorney.

Today I am grateful to arrive home safely last night after getting caught in thunderstorms miles from home.

Sunday, September 6, 2020 4:06:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 5, 2020

I am conflicted how to judge Interworld. On the one hand, the book was co-written by Neil Gaiman - one of my favourite fantasy writers - and I am tempted to compare it to his other novels. On the other hand, Michael Reaves - known primarily as a screenwriter for superhero TV shows and the novelization of Star Wars movies - also contributes. Since I am unfamiliar with Mr. Reaves's work, I should probably just this book against all other YA fantasy novels.

For the record, the book is fine by the second standard; but disappointing by the first.

Interworld  tells the story of Joey Harker - a teenage boy, who finds himself transported across multiple dimensions where he learns that each dimension has its own variation of Earth and its own variation of Joey Harker and that these Harkers have special talents that make them an ideal space force to protect the universe from the bad guys. Joey joins the force after discovering he has a special talent for finding paths between dimensions.

The idea of multiple versions of our planet and universe is not new; nor is the idea  of a team of heroes fighting the bad guys across space and  dimensions; nor is the story's conflict between magic and science. The characters have potential, but none are really fleshed out to my satisfaction. Even the villains lack motivation other than their desire for revenge and domination.

I liked the character of Hue - an interdimensional creature, who speaks only in shifting colors and saves the day on multiple occasions.

As a pulp science fiction story, it is not bad. As a young adult novel, it is above average. As a Neil Gaiman story, it is below what I have come to expect. Overall, it felt rushed. "Interworld" was originally conceived as a television show and it feels like it was designed with that adaptation in mind.

Interworld is part 1 of a trilogy and it interested me enough to continue to book 2.

Saturday, September 5, 2020 9:01:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, September 3, 2020
GCast | Java | Screencast | Video
Thursday, September 3, 2020 9:10:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 31, 2020

Episode 624

Damian Brady on MLOps

Damian Brady describes how to assign the concepts of DevOps to Machine Learning projects.

Monday, August 31, 2020 7:35:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, August 30, 2020

The narrator of Flann O'Brien's At Swim-Two-Birds is a lazy student, who spends all his time in bed writing a novel about fictional author Dermot Trellis. Trellis is writing a book of his own but the characters in that book are frustrated by how poorly they are treated by their creator. At one point, Trellis invents a female character, then seduces her and fathers a fictional child. His characters become so frustrated that they drug their creator to gain some autonomy while he sleeps. Finally, Trellis's fictional son Orlick writes a story about his father in which Trellis is tortured and held on trial for his "crimes".

Sound confusing? It is supposed to be. O'Brien weaves together a complex story in which authors and their creations interact directly with one another in absurd ways. He includes tales of Irish folklore that include invisible fairies and the devil-like Pookas and empowers fictional characters with the ability to influence the author who created them.

The novel is difficult to read. Dialog is never delimited by quotation marks and the narration frequently shifts from an inner story to an outer story as characters interrupt one another in the middle of a story. Add to that the blurring between various realities and one can easily become lost. I frequently had to re-read sections to understand what was happening.

"At Swim-Two-Birds" is a novel within a novel within a novel in which the characters do not respect the boundaries of their own story. O'Brien displays enormous imagination and extraordinary discipline in keeping the stories consistent (if somewhat nonsensical) despite the multiple layers and plots.

He warns us from the start, when on page 1, O'Brien states: 

"One beginning and one ending for a book was a thing I did not agree with. A good book may have three openings entirely dissimilar and inter-related only in the prescience of the author, or for that matter one hundred times as many endings."

And he delivers with a clever work of metafiction.

Sunday, August 30, 2020 9:09:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, August 29, 2020

Serial killer Herman Webster Mudgett, a.k.a. H. H. Holmes was born in New Hampshire; educated in Vermont and Michigan; arrested, tried, and convicted in Philadelphia; and murdered people in multiple cities across North America.

But he is most closely associated with Chicago and the 1893 World's Fair because he lured so many of his victims to his Englewood hotel during the Fair before killing them and either disposing of their bodies or selling their skeletons to medical researchers.

Holmes's story is told in The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America by Erik Larson. Holmes was a handsome charming sociopath. He was a liar and a polygamist who swindled almost everyone with whom he came in contact. His quick wit and charm allowed him to deflect attention away from his crimes and character flaws for years.

Alternating with Holmes's story in this book is one chronicling the race to complete and host the Fair itself - "the greatest fair in the history of the world", which was named The Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's journeys to The New World. The Expo suffered from financial problems, labor disputes, fatal fires and other disasters, construction problems, bank failures, a national recession, and even a political assassination. Architect Daniel Burnham is the star of this part of the story. The visionary architect succeeded in making the Exposition a memorable and profitable event. "The White City" refers to the expo buildings, which were all painted white and gleamed in the summer August sunshine.

L Frank Baum, Theodore Dreisel, Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan, and Dr. Alexander Graham Bell were among those influenced by their attendance at the Fair. Shredded wheat, zippers, the first Ferris wheel, Columbus Day, The Pledge of Allegiance, Juicy Fruit gum, Aunt Jemima, and Cracker Jacks are just some of the things introduced at this Exposition.

Burnham and Holmes never met and are only peripherally related by their connection to the Exposition - an event that Holmes attended only briefly. Still, Larson does a good job of weaving together their parallel stories. Each man was obsessed by the task before him - Burnham to create a memorable event that would put Chicago on the map as a world class city; and Holmes with his obsession to exercise absolute power over his victims.

The book is a work of non-fiction, but it reads like a mystery novel.

Although Larson brags that everything in quotes is directly from a written document, he does take liberties in setting scenes - even to the extent of telling the reader what is in the mind of his characters.  He also acknowledges that much about Holmes's crimes remains unknown. For instance, Holmes confessed to killing 27 people, but only 9 have been confirmed and some estimates put the number as high as 200.

So, take with a grain of salt the historical accuracy of The Devil in the White City.

But as an entertaining story it succeeds very well. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020 9:59:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)