# Monday, September 27, 2021

Episode 680

Eric Potter on Kusto Query Language

Eric Potter describes how he uses the Kusto Query Language to help him query Azure Application Insights data to track down bugs, set alerts, and determine the state of a deployed application.

Monday, September 27, 2021 9:17:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, September 26, 2021

Joan Osborne in concertSometimes it only takes three people to fill a room.

Friday night at Evanston's SPACE club, Joan Osborne was joined by guitarist Jack Petruzelli, who switched between electric and acoustic guitar; and keyboardist Keith Cotton, who alternated between a baby grand piano and an electric keyboard. Combined with their musicianship and Osborne's strong vocals, it was enough.

I know Joan Osborne from her 1995 hit song "One of Us", but she has released ten albums since then and I prepared for this show by listening to them all. Osborne is known less as a songwriter than as an interpreter of the music of others. Her favourite songwriters are Eric Bazilian, with whom she collaborated for many of her early songs, and Bob Dylan. She also has covered many of the great R&B / soul songs of the 1960s and 70s; and many great blues songs over the years.

Friday, she focused on her early works, her newest album ("Trouble and Strife", released during last year's pandemic), Dylan covers, and the blues. It was on her blues numbers that she shined brightest. "She opened with the rousing "My Right Hand"; the opening guitar riff of "St. Theresa" was a dynamic precursor to a dynamic song that energized the sold-out audience; "Spider Web" - funky rocker describing a dream about the results of Ray Charles regaining his vision got us all clapping along.

Osborne changed the arrangements of some of her older songs. "One of Us" was transformed into a haunting ballad; and Cotton's jazzy piano solo in the middle of Dylan's "Tangled Up in Blue" was a delight.

Oddly, there were no R&B or soul numbers, even though these comprise a significant part of her recorded catalog. It may have been because of the stripped-down band (most Motown numbers feature more than a guitar, a piano, and a singer); or she may have simply chosen to focus on other types of music. There was certainly time to add a few more songs, as she played for only about 80 minutes.

She closed with an excellent rendition of Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips", bringing extra enthusiasm to her vocals.

It was a short, but sweet show and the audience left with a smile.

Sunday, September 26, 2021 9:08:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 25, 2021

Asleep At The Wheel in concertThe fiddlers were already playing when they walked onto the stage at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Lincoln Square Sunday evening. Behind them, strode guitarist and lead vocalist Ray Benson. At 6'7", the founder of Asleep at the Wheel is larger than life - both figuratively and literally.

The band opened with the Bob Wills tune "Cherokee Maiden" and, for the next two hours, they played what could have been a selection of my favourite AATW songs!

They performed more Bob Wills songs, including "New San Antonio Rose", "Faded Love", "Take Me Back to Tulsa", and "Big Balls in Cow Town". This is not surprising. For five decades, AATW has been carrying on the tradition of Western Swing music popularized by Wills and his Texas Playboys in the 1930s and 40s. They even played "Bob Wills Is Still the King", Waylon Jennings's tribute to Mr. Wills; and "Milk Cow Blues", a song recorded by Wills's younger brother Johnnie Lee Wills.

The band mixed in many classic tunes, such as "Route 66", "The House of Blue Lights", "Hot Rod Lincoln", and "Tiger Rag"- the latter of which featured frantic solos from each member of the band. Speaking of the band, every member was excellent. They brought energy and fun and projected both onto the crowd.

Of course, the group played some original songs ("Half a Hundred Years", "I Guess I'll Call it a Day Tonight") and "Miles and Miles of Texas", which is one of their best covers.

A highlight of the evening was a moving interpretation of Guy Clark's "Dublin Blues", a song I've always loved and did not know AATW had recorded.

They closed the encore set with an a cappella version of "Happy Trails" - a song made famous by the legendary cowboy duo of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

Asleep at the Wheel gave us an amazing performance. They reminded us how much fun music can be.

Saturday, September 25, 2021 9:23:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, September 20, 2021

Episode 679

Cameron Presley on Mentoring

Cameron Presley has developed a program to help train and mentor junior engineers in his company. He talks about getting them involved in working on a KATA, working with other developers, and engaging in all areas of software development - but doing so in a safe place.


Monday, September 20, 2021 9:53:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, September 19, 2021

Elwood Curtis was an idealistic straight-A high school student preparing to take college classes when he was wrongly convicted of stealing a car. He was sent to Nickel Academy - a Florida reform school, which proved to be a place of arbitrary cruelty - especially for black boys like Elwood. Physical, sexual, and mental abuse were daily occurrences. When the staff caught bullies were beating up a boy in the bathroom, the victim and the one who tried to stop the fight were punished more severely than the bullies. One boy was beaten and murdered by the staff for disobeying their order to throw a boxing match.

At Nickel, Elwood befriended Turner, a cynical orphan from the streets. The two became friends, despite their differing world outlooks and opinions on how best to survive inside Nickel and out in the Free World afterward.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a tragic story of life for African Americans in the Jim Crow south. The Civil Rights movement was reaching its height in the 1960s and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message of loving one's enemies inspired Elwood, as it inspired so many others. But the harsh reality of the system made Turner's approach seem more practical.

Although this story is fiction, it is based on an actual Florida reform school - The Dozier School for Boys - at which similar abuses occurred. Like Dozier, Nickel labeled itself a "reform school", even though it did little in the way of reform or education.

Whitehead brings the reader into the story by forcing us to connect with Elwood and Turner and to feel their pains. I read this shortly after his preceding novel "The Underground Railroad". Both novels dealt with racism in America, and each won a Pulitzer Prize; but I enjoyed "The Nickel Boys" more. I cared more about Elwood and Turner than I did about Cora; and the realism of the later novel made it more relevant to me.

Sunday, September 19, 2021 9:01:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 18, 2021

RickySkaggsRicky Skaggs was a successful country musician when he decided to fully embrace bluegrass music in his recordings and performances. He formed Kentucky Thunder in the late 1990s and together they released some of the finest bluegrass recordings of the past 25 years.

Sunday evening, Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder brought their magic to The Old Town School of Folk Music in Lincoln Square.

Every single member of Kentucky Thunder is an outstanding musician. With a heavy influence on strings (3 guitars, fiddle, mandolin, and standup bass for most songs), the evening featured plenty of picking and these guys are master pickers! Some of them have been with the band for years and some joined this year, but their playing and harmonizing were tight throughout the evening.

Skaggs and co. delighted the audience with almost two hours of bluegrass music. He mixed originals, covers, and standards; he mixed instrumentals and vocals; he featured himself as well as members of the band. Three members sang songs they had recorded and released on their own albums. Highlights included "Highway 40 Blues", "Uncle Pen", and "Black Eyed Susan".

Lead Guitarist Jake Workman was especially impressive with his fingers flying across his instrument. Rhythm Guitarist Dennis Parker shared his heartfelt story of his ongoing recovery from alcoholism (He has been sober 5+ years) before leading the band in a wonderful rendition of John Prine's "Paradise".

Skaggs was charming and personal. He sang lead and played mandolin on most songs, occasionally switching to guitar. He did spend a lot of time tuning his mandolin between songs, but that is understandable considering the instrument is in its 99th year. Whatever he did, it was worth it.

For an encore, they performed a moving a Capella version of Doc Watson's classic "Down in the Valley to Pray".

I enjoyed this concert as much as I’ve enjoyed any show this year. Mr. Skaggs strikes me as the kind of person I would love spending time with, sharing a meal together or talking. I definitely enjoyed spending Sunday evening with him and his friends.

Saturday, September 18, 2021 9:16:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, September 13, 2021

Episode 678

Matt Groves on Couchbase 7

Matt Groves talks about some of the new features in Couchbase 7, including Scopes and Collections, ACID Transaction support, and Query Language enhancements. He also shows off his open source tool designed to help users migrate from SQL Server to Couchbase.


Monday, September 13, 2021 9:03:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, September 12, 2021

It has been 26 years since Alanis Morissette released her classic album "Jagged Little Pill" - a disc that established Morissette as a star and produced multiple hit singles. The celebration of this album was supposed to happen last year, marking a quarter century since its release, but the COVID pandemic forced its postponement by a year.

So, here we all were, twelve months later in Tinley Park to hear Morissette sing music from her iconic album, as well as across her decades-spanning recording career.

While JLP showcased the singer's firestorm of emotions in her early twenties, Saturday night's performance featured a softer Alanis, one who seems very much at peace with herself. She smiled with satisfaction through most of her songs, which was appropriate for lighthearted tunes like "Hand in My Pocket” but lessened the anger of "You Oughta Know" - a song about a bitter ex-lover screaming at her former man and his current lover. The edge that defined her earlier work is gone.

But whatever the Canadian-born singer has lost in the emotions of her youth, she made up for with her voice. Her vocal range sounded even more technically proficient than it did when she first entered our consciousness. She has evolved her voice to a new level of maturity and beauty. I never thought of Alanis Morissette as a diva, but Saturday night, she had the voice of one.

A nearly full crowd felt so as well. And they provided enough emotion to keep the performer smiling. Alanis even introduced her husband ("The love of my life") during the fan favourite "Ironic".

A solid performance by Garbage enhanced the show. Garbage was formed in Wisconsin in the 1990s and is fronted by Scottish singer Shirley Manson, who played up the band's upper-Midwest roots to the delight of the crowd.

Overall, it was a pleasant if unspectacular show.

And I am happy for Alanis Morissette, who seems to be in a much better place emotionally than she was 25 years ago.

Sunday, September 12, 2021 6:53:37 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 11, 2021

Before the American Civil War, a group of abolitionists organized the Underground Railroad - a network of people, places, and routes designed to assist escaped slaves. The name "Underground Railroad" was a metaphor. In reality, it was neither a railroad nor was it underground. But in Colson Whitehead's 2016 novel The Underground Railroad, the title refers to an actual railroad track and a train that literally runs under the ground. Its purpose was the same as the actual Underground Railroad - to facilitate the journey of escaped slaves and to connect them with safe places and with the people who could help.

Whitehead takes other liberties with historical accuracy in his novel, describing laws and cultures that did not exist in the nineteenth-century American South. But he does so with a purpose.

This is the story of Cora, a Georgia slave who escapes first to South Carolina, where a group of progressive white people has set up a colony in which blacks are allowed employment and treated with greater respect than in the rest of the South. She then travels to North Carolina, where the citizens have decided the best way to end slavery is by outlawing negroes - a crime punishable by death. Ultimately, she ends up in Indiana, joining a community of African Americans that have built their own economy and coexist with the whites of the local town.

Despite the differences in Whitehead's alternate history, he maintains the spirit of the struggles of blacks in antebellum America. Cora is pursued relentlessly by professional slave catcher Ridgeway and must frequently flee to new places, often losing the people she loves on the way. Although the world of Whitehead's novel contains significant differences from actual American history, he captures the horrors of slavery and forces the reader to feel the omnipresent fear of being a black fugitive in the nineteenth century. The dehumanizing horrors of slavery are not whitewashed in this story.

Both Cora and Ridgeway are haunted by the memory of Cora's mother Mabel, who escaped when Cora was an infant. Cora feels forever abandoned by her mother, while Ridgeway is obsessed with the memory of the only escaped slave he failed to recapture. In the final chapter, Whitehead reveals Mabel's fate, and this provides a satisfying closure for the reader, if not for Cora and Ridgeway.

Many of the whites she encounters appear to be progressive thinkers, but they maintain their prejudices and their beliefs in ethnic superiority. They congratulate themselves on their acceptance of negroes, but still perceive the black race as inferior - often with deadly consequences. Their rationalizations are often frightening.

The novel is not perfect. I don't understand why Whitehead felt it important to turn the Underground Railroad into a physical subterranean train. Perhaps it was to underscore that this was a work of alternate history, but it felt like an unnecessary gimmick.

Still, this book works on several levels. It is a story of survival against impossible odds; it is a love story; and it forces the reader to consider what it means to embrace racial equality - a question that is still relevant today.

Saturday, September 11, 2021 9:43:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Tuesday, September 7, 2021

NRBQWhen a band records for over 50 years, it is easy to miss some of their output. I've been a fan of NRBQ for decades and I've listened to many of their songs; but I still did not recognize most of the songs they performed Sunday night at Fitzgerald's in Berwyn, IL.

The band treated the audience to a few cover songs, such as The Beach Boys' "Darlin'" and Clarence "Frogman" Henry's "Ain't Got No Home", as well as a few familiar songs I recognized from their extensive catalog, including "Green Lights", "Ridin' in my Car", "Howard Johnson's Got His Ho-Jo Workin'", and "RC Cola and a Moon Pie". They played two sets, plus an encore that included two classics: "Captain Lou" - a tribute to the late Lou Albano, a retired professional wrestler who once served as the band's manager; and their excellent cover of the Johnny Cash-penned "Get Rhythm".

During the past five decades, NRBQ has suffered through deaths and major illnesses, and the departure of key members; but founding member Terry Adams has kept the group going by recruiting capable musicians to accompany him as he plays keyboards. Together they maintain the energy that made this quartet a favourite live performer for so many years, despite never having a single crack the Top 40. Adams's energetic keyboard playing was a focal point on stage, but bassist Casey McDonough, guitarist Scott Ligon, and drummer John Perrin were each excellent. They don't look like rock & roll stars, but they sound and perform like they are.

The only low point of the evening came when Adams decided to sing a goofy song about a jealous ex-wife. The lyrics were slightly misogynistic, and he had to read them from a paper. This could have and should have been skipped. But that was a brief speed bump in a rapid frenzy that was the evening's music.

Over two hours of rock & roll, blues, and rockabilly was enough to satisfy the crowd and bring some fun to Berwyn.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021 9:20:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)