# Saturday, September 4, 2021

Sometimes I read a book later than I should. Last year, I worked my way through Anthony Powell's epic 12-volume saga A Dance to the Music of Time. It was a lot to absorb. Powell's series spans six decades and introduces hundreds of characters and subplots. It is not uncommon for a character to disappear for several books, only to reappear much later and much older. Keeping everything straight was a challenge.

Hilary Spurling's Invitation to the Dance: A Handbook to Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time makes this easier. Spurling's book is a guide to Powell's books. In addition to a summary of each book, she lists details of each character, book, painting, and place mentioned in the series. It is an exhaustive set of lists, as there are many of each. Powell sought to include the influence of art in his story, so he included many artists and works of art - both real and invented.

I enjoyed revisiting some of the stories and characters without the burden of re-reading everything. Some I remembered well, and some had faded from my memory.

There is very little analysis in Spurling's book - it is primarily a database, that can help you navigate the complexities of Powell's story.

I wish I had this book last year, as I was reading Powell's series. If I return to these books, I plan to have Spurling's guide at my side.

Saturday, September 4, 2021 7:45:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 30, 2021

Episode 676

Carl Franklin on Music and Programming

Carl Franklin is a software developer, a musician, and an audio producer. We talk about why there is such a strong correlation between proficiency with music and with software development.


Monday, August 30, 2021 9:14:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, August 28, 2021

Addie Brunden fell ill and died 10 days later, leaving behind a husband, 4 sons, and a daughter. Her wish was to be buried in her childhood hometown of Jefferson, Mississippi. So, her family built a coffin, tied horses to their wagon, and began the journey across the rural south.

William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying chronicles their troubling 9-day journey, interrupted by a near-disastrous river crossing, a broken leg, and a fire. The narration switches quickly between over a dozen narrators, who provide details of the trip, as well as their perspectives on life, death, and family.

Faulkner unfolds the story from different perspectives in a way that keeps the reader engaged; and he slowly reveals secrets of infidelity and illegitimacy and teen pregnancy in a way that humanizes the family.

Faulkner does a good job of giving a unique voice to each character - the childlike innocence of Vardaman; the thoughtfulness of Darl, the stoicism of Cash, and the selfishness of Anse.

The reader's challenge is keeping the characters straight and remembering which ones are most significant. The novel's stream-of-consciousness style gives an immediacy to the action, but it can confuse.

As I Lay Dying explores the dynamics of family relationships, especially during a time of great crisis and conflict, as everyone deals with death in their own way. It is well worth your time.

Saturday, August 28, 2021 9:19:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 23, 2021

Episode 675

Joe Kunk on SQL+.NET

SQL+.NET is an Object Relational Mapper (ORM) that works directly with SQL Server stored procedures, simplifying the process of converting data into business objects for use in a .NET application. Joe Kunk describes its features, how to get started, and how he uses it to build robust business applications.



Monday, August 23, 2021 9:23:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, August 22, 2021

Neil Gaiman's Trigger Warnings is a collection of creepy poems and short stories.

Many of the stories end ambiguously with the hint of something dreadful about to occur. Others could easily be a chapter in a novel and perhaps they were originally planned as such. They tend toward the darker side of storytelling; but, other than that, have very little in common with one another.

My favourites stories were:

  • "The Sleeper and the Spindle" - a reimagining of a classic fairy tale with an unexpected crossover into another fairy tale.
  • "The Thing About Cassandra" - a story about a man who encounters the imaginary girlfriend he made up while in school.
  • "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains" - a dark tale of revenge.

Gaiman also included a Sherlock Holmes story, a Doctor Who story, and a story about Shadow Moon, the protagonist of "American Gods".

I strongly related to "The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury" - a first-person narrative from someone losing his memory as he grows older. It reminded me that both my parents struggled through this frustration at the end of their lives; and I sometimes feel it happening to me. Plus, it is a tribute to one of the great writers of the 20th century, who undoubtedly influenced Gaiman.

This is a strong collection of works for anyone who enjoys mystery and horror and any fans of Mr. Gaiman's writing.

Sunday, August 22, 2021 9:35:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, August 21, 2021

At the end of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Jo and her husband Friedrich resolve to open a school for boys in the home left to them by Jo's Aunt Marge. Little Men is the story of that school.

The book is a series of vignettes, displaying the personalities of the various children at school and the lessons they learn about integrity and honesty.

But mostly, it is the story of Dan, a tough orphan from the streets, who finds it difficult to obey the rules of the house. Dan's wrestling with moral issues form the heart of this novel.

Alcott drew inspiration from her father, who had radical ideas about education. The book reflects some of these ideas as Jo and Friedrich encourage their students to think for themselves, rather than drilling information and discipline into them. Dan's presence challenges these notions. Initially, he is a disruptive influence with the other children and cannot respect even the few rules imposed by the school. But the teachers persist; they see the good in the boy and believe he is destined for something special.

The rest of the March family gets very little exposure in this story - surprising in that one of them is lost suddenly late in the book. A bit more buildup would have improved that scene dramatically.
Although not quite on the literary level of its predecessor, Little Men is a pleasant successor to Little Women.

Saturday, August 21, 2021 9:08:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 16, 2021

Episode 674

Shahed Chowdhuri on Azure Arc

Azure Arc is the remote control of hybrid, multi-cloud solutions. Shahed Chowdhuri describes how to use Azure Arc to manage resources on different cloud platforms, allowing you to create a hybrid cloud environment.



Monday, August 16, 2021 9:55:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, August 15, 2021

Louisa May Alcott grew up poor in the mid-18th century New England with her three sisters, so it is no coincidence that her most famous novel - Little Women is about a family very similar to her own.

"Little Women" tells the story of the March family - Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, who are raised by their mother until their father returns from fighting in the Civil War. The story spans about two decades, as the girls grow into womanhood.

Alcott does an impressive job of painting the personalities of the sisters - beautiful and domestic Meg; tomboy Jo, who loves to write; shy and musical Beth; and artistic Amy. The moral character of the girls and their mother is remarkably high, but they still struggle with ethical dilemmas and often grow as a result. They survive problems at school and the temptation to avoid work and conflict with their aunt. They grow through changes in love and courtship and marriage and childbirth and careers and the death of a loved one. We see the sisters evolve throughout their young lives: quick-tempered Jo learns to soften her temperament when appropriate and Amy overcomes her selfish streak to inspire their spoiled neighbor Laurie to achieve his potential.

I enjoyed the contrast between Jo, who could be a role model for liberated women and Meg, who embraces her traditional role as housewife and mother. They are completely different, but they love each other unconditionally.

This novel has become a classic because of its characters and its moral lessons.

Sunday, August 15, 2021 10:05:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, August 14, 2021

Emmylou-43-X4Emmylou Harris is pure country music, uncorrupted by rock and roll. In addition to guitar, bass, drums, and keyboards, her band includes mandolin, accordion, fiddle, and the twang of Emmylou's voice which still persists at the age of 74.

Thursday night, Emmylou performed an outdoor show between holes 1 and 2 of Evanston's Canal Shores Golf Course as part of the SPACE nightclub's "Out of Space" series. She was charming and talented and beautiful and she captivated her audience beneath a clear sky on a perfect night.

I heard so many of my favourite Emmylou songs: "Pancho and Lefty", "Orphan Girl", "The Wayfaring Stranger", and my personal favourite "Boulder to Birmingham", with which she closed her performance. I also heard some cover songs that I don't usually associate with Ms. Harris. Her version of "Save the Last Dance for Me" was a delight. But the most moving moment was when she sang "My Name is Emmitt Till" - the true story of a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago, who was murdered in Mississippi because he was seen talking with a white woman.

The years have done nothing to diminish Emmylou Harris's spirit and talent. She held the audience of thousands throughout the night.

LosLobos-22-X4The evening was made even more special by the appearance of Los Lobos as the warmup act, who built their show to a climax when they closed with their biggest hit - a cover of Ritchie Valens's "La Bamba", from the movie of the same name.

It has been 30 years since I saw Los Lobos in East Lansing, MI, and 22 years since first experiencing Emmylou Harris at the Grand Ole Opry and tonight's show was just as much a treat as when we were all young.

More Los Lobos photos

More Emmylou Harris photos

Saturday, August 14, 2021 8:12:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, August 9, 2021

Episode 673

Cassandra Faris on Open Source Software

Cassandra Faris talks about the advantages of Open Source Software and Rocket Mortgage's approach to Open Source.

Monday, August 9, 2021 9:09:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)