# Monday, November 22, 2021

Episode 687

Nick Kwiatkowski on Dialogflow CX

Dialogflow CX is an AI cloud-based agent from Google. Nick Kwiatkowski of Michigan State University talks about how his team used this tool to build a conversational chatbot to help nurses connect more efficiently with their patients, as well as other projects built on Dialogflow CX.

https://cloud.google.com/dialogflow
Monday, November 22, 2021 8:13:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, November 21, 2021

Smoke and Mirrors collects a few dozen early short stories and poems by Neil Gaiman. Most were published previously in other anthologies.

I enjoyed Gaiman's preface, in which he described the inspiration for each of the selections and I returned to this section repeatedly.

I always enjoy reading Gaiman's poems, but I rarely remember any of them 24 hours after reading them. Not so, with his short stories - many of these stay with me for years. A favourite theme of Gaiman's is to take an existing story and twist its perspective or to mimic the style of an existing author. He does both in these stories, paying homage to H.P. Lovecraft, Michael Moorcock, the Brothers Grimm.

Although I did not love every story in this volume, I cannot say that I hated any of them. All were worth reading. A few of the stories appeared in Gaiman's "M is for Magic" collection, which was published later, but which I read previously.

Below are my favourite stories from this collection.

Chivalry

A story about an old lady, who finds the Holy Grail in a thrift shop. Shortly after, Sir Galahad approaches to attempt to purchase the relic.

Shoggoth's Old Peculiar

A humorous H.P. Lovecraft mystery

We Can Get Them for You Wholesale

A terrifying story about a man, who seeks volume discounts when hiring an assassin

Murder Mysteries

An angel is murdered in Heaven and another angel is charged with finding his murderer and avenging his death.

Snow, Glass, Apples

A version of Snow White in which the stepmother is the victim and Snow is the villain.

The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories

A hopeful English screenwriter tries to navigate Hollywood's facade.

Sunday, November 21, 2021 9:00:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, November 20, 2021

RichardThompsonI have been listening to Richard Thompson for decades, but I was in no way prepared for seeing him in concert. But see him I did, as a few tickets popped up hours before a Saturday night show that had been sold out for months. It was good luck for me, as I had bought tickets to see The Wallflowers that same night and an illness in the band forced that show's cancellation.

But sitting in the second row at the Old Town School of Folk Music, I was able to get close to the singer/songwriter/guitarist, who made every effort to relate to his audience. He chatted between songs and joked with the crowd. Thompson published a memoir - "Beeswing: Losing my Way and Finding my Voice, 1967-1975" last year and he read a few passages from it, each time leading into a song.

Hearing the richness of Thompson's baritone voice was a pleasure and watching as he accompanied himself on guitar was impressive. His live performance far exceeds what is captured on his recordings. At age 72, he has lost none of his vocal prowess nor his playing dexterity.

For most of the show, Richard was alone on stage, accompanying himself on guitar; but for a few songs, he invited singer Zara Phillips to sing harmony on the chorus. Phillips's pleasant voice enhanced each song in which she participated.

Thompson sang songs from throughout his career. He included songs from Fairport Convention ("Who Knows Where the Time Goes?", "Poor Will and the Jolly Hangman"), from albums recorded with his ex-wife Linda ("Walking on a Wire", "Down Where the Drunkards Roll"), and songs from his solo career, most notably the crowd favourite "1952 Vincent Black Lightning".

Richard Thompson rose to prominence in the 1960s when his band Fairport Convention helped to launch the folk music scene. He left FC in 1971 and has been recording and touring in the years since, but he has never sought nor achieved the commercial success that his talent deserves.

The couple sitting next to me told me had seen this singer dozens of times and still enjoyed his shows.

Saturday night at Old Town, everyone left satisfied.

More Photos

Saturday, November 20, 2021 9:54:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, November 15, 2021

Episode 686

Allison Hartnett on Microsoft TEALS and Computer Science Education

Allison Hartnett and the Microsoft Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) program works to bring more access to Computer Science to students in Grades K-12. She talks about what the program, its partners, and its volunteers are doing to promote CS education among underrepresented groups.

https://microsoft.com/teals
https://hourofcode.org/
https://twitter.com/tealsprogram

Monday, November 15, 2021 9:41:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, November 14, 2021

Lemonheads

Some artists let the music do the talking for them. This was the case with Evan Dando, as he and his band the Lemonheads performed at Thalia Hall Thursday night. The band moved quickly from one song to the next with at most a quick "Thank you" between numbers.

On the one hand, this allowed them to pack as many of their 3–4-minute songs into as short a time as possible. On the other hand, it made it difficult to achieve a connection between the audience and the performers.

Don't get me wrong. The trio (Dando, along with bassist Farley Gavin and drummer Michael Jones) sounded really good. All are accomplished musicians and Dando's voice sounds as powerful now as it did when he was cranking out hits almost 30 years ago. And it's not that the band didn't have energy or that they ignored the audience. They just didn't talk to them. And the concert ended with Dando mumbling "See ya later" less than 90 minutes into his set and walking offstage with no return for an encore.

Everything was abrupt. A half hour into the show, Gavin and Jones walked off stage and Dando picked up a guitar and performed a 20-minute acoustic set, highlighted by the " I Lied About Being the Outdoor Type", "Being Around", and "Frank Mills" from the musical "Hair". Then the band returned and continued as a trio.

The band's songs are typical of the indie bands that major labels signed in droves in the late 1980s and 1990s; their songs feature catchy melodies and clever lyrics layered over driving rhythms and frantic guitars.

Even though the Lemonheads' last two albums featured only cover songs, this evening was mostly about original material. However, the trio did delight with the John Prine song "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness" and finished with "Different Drum", the  Michael Nesmith song made famous by Linda Ronstadt's Stone Poneys.

Overall, it was a good show by a quality band that tried to sound very much like they did on their albums. I enjoyed it, but it wasn't much different from listening to their albums.


Photos

Sunday, November 14, 2021 9:37:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, November 13, 2021

Diplomatic Immunity continues Lois McMaster Bujold's saga of Miles Vorkosigan, the diminutive galactic lord in the distant future. It is Miles's first mission since his marriage to Lady Ekaterin.

The couple are called away from their honeymoon to investigate a violent incident on the edge of the empire. The sector is controlled by "quaddies" - genetically engineered humans with an extra set of arms where one would expect legs.

On a remote space station, Miles is reunited with his old friend Bel Thorne and caught in the middle of a plot in which the attacker is unknown and which potentially drives rival empires on a path toward interstellar war. To make matters worse, Miles is attacked by a bioweapon that infects him with a disease from which he may not recover.

This is a fun adventure, wrapped up in a whodunit that keeps the reader guessing throughout. It is also one of the few stories to feature the Quaddies, a race I grew to enjoy after reading "Falling Free".

Saturday, November 13, 2021 6:53:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, November 11, 2021

GCast 117:

Getting Started with Azure Data Explorer

Azure Data Explorer (ADX) is a service designed to analyze large amounts of structured and semi-structured data in near real time. This video walks you through creating a cluster, creating a database within that cluster, and adding a table with data to that database.

Thursday, November 11, 2021 9:30:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, November 7, 2021

10/4
Today I am grateful to see Melissa Etheridge in concert last night in Waukegan.

10/5
Today I am grateful for kind words from our customer as we wrapped up this project.

10/6
Today I am grateful to download and install Photoshop and Lightroom yesterday and edit some photos with these tools.

10/7
Today I am grateful to finally edit and share photos from the concerts I have attended the past 2 months.

10/8
Today I am grateful for my personal trainer.

10/9
Today I am grateful to see an excellent live performance of "RENT" last night in Chicago.

10/10
Today I am grateful to watch a James Bond movie at an IMAX theatre yesterday.

10/11
Today I am grateful to visit the upper floors of the Harold Washington Library for the first time in almost 2 years.

10/12
Today I am grateful to receive the COVID booster shot yesterday.

10/13
Today I am grateful to finally donate to charity the enormous pile of stuff that has been sitting next to my front door for weeks.

10/14
Today I am grateful that I began working at Microsoft 8 years ago today.

10/15
Today I am grateful that a much-needed vacation begins this evening.

10/16
Today I am grateful to see Pat Metheny put on an excellent performance last night at Thalia Hall in Pilsen.

10/17
Today I am grateful to arrive safely in Dubrovnik after my first international flight in almost 2 years.

10/18
Today I am grateful to fall asleep last night to the sounds of the Adriatic Sea outside my window.

10/19
Today I am grateful to read a book and sip espresso on a mountain overlooking Dubrovnik yesterday.

10/20
Today I am grateful for two walking tours of Dubrovnik yesterday.

10/21
Today I am grateful for
-cave diving in the islands of the Adriatic Sea
-4 days in Dubrovnik

10/22
Today I am grateful to explore the old town of Trogir, Croatia yesterday afternoon.

10/24
Today I am grateful for:
-a tour of an olive oil museum
-a tour of a stone cutting school
-dinner at the home of a local Croatian family last night.

10/25
Today I am grateful for 3 days on the island of Brač.

10/26
Today I am grateful for a cooking lesson and a great meal last night in Hvar Town.

10/27
Today I am grateful for 3 days on the island of Hvar.

10/28
Today I am grateful for a walking tour around Split, Croatia, learning about the history of this city.

10/29
Today I am grateful for 2 weeks in Croatia.

10/30
Today I am grateful for plenty of sleep yesterday.

10/31
Today I am grateful for an exciting victory over um in football yesterday and an 8-0 record heading into November.

11/1
Today I am grateful for the Trick-or-Treaters who came to my door yesterday.

11/2
Today I am grateful for leftover Halloween candy.

11/3
Today I am grateful for my chiropractor.

11/4
Today I am grateful to attend a Roosevelt University home basketball game last night for the first time.

11/5
Today I am grateful that the freeway exits closest to my home are finally open again.

11/6
Today I am grateful for tacos in Wicker Park last night.

11/7
Today I am grateful for one extra hour in the weekend.

Sunday, November 7, 2021 4:13:41 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, November 6, 2021

There was nothing special about Ana. She was a typical 10-year-old girl growing up in Zagreb, Yugoslavia when the war broke out. But shortly after her baby sister was sent to America for medical treatment, Ana's world was turned upside down. Serbs attacked her family and she found herself alone and thrust into the middle of a civil war.

Years later, Ana is living as an American college student, attempting to reconcile the tragedies of her past with her current life. She returns to Croatia seeking closure and those with whom she was once close.

Sara Nović's debut novel Girl at War tells Ana's story. Nović takes the reader forward and backward in time as we learn of Ana's search for peace. It is a moving story of a young girl denied a normal childhood.

Although this is a novel, it often reads like an autobiography. If the prose sometimes seems a bit awkward, this made it more authentic for me; if the narration is detached, it emphasized Ana's attempts to suppress the memories of her past.

I read this novel while visiting Croatia and I had the privilege of hearing stories of the civil war from the locals and from a museum above Dubrovnik. As a result, the story felt even more real for me.

Saturday, November 6, 2021 6:44:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, November 3, 2021

These days, Microsoft tends to announce products as they begin development; so they have fewer big announcements at their large events like Microsoft Ignite. Nevertheless, yesterday's 2.5 hour keynote did include some interesting information and announcements.

The two things that interested me the most were:

Azure OpenAI Service - a new addition to Microsoft's powerful Cognitive Services suite that allows you to create models that understand the context of text. The demo showed a transcript of a basketball game in which OpenAI was able to summarize the game's action into a brief paragraph. You can watch that demo here.

Microsoft Teams Connect should make it easier to collaborate in Teams with members from different organizations. This has been a pain point on some of my recent projects, so I look forward to seeing how this affects my work.

Microsoft Loop appeared in my build of Teams a few days ago, so my teammates and I have been playing with its collaborative features, which allow us to quickly add things like tables and to-do lists and edit them simultaneously.

While watching videos, I sometimes learn about things that are not new, but are new to me. Copilot is a plug-in for Visual Studio Code that automatically generates code, based on comments you add. I was unfamiliar with it, but I will be trying it out this week. It looks very cool!

Below are my raw notes, taken while watching the keynote:

New: Azure OpenAI Service

Customize models. Add context

Summarize text

Summary of summaries

 

Co-Pilot VS Code plug-in

Creates code based on comments

 

Teams Connect

Collaboration: Chat, call, meet, etc.

 

Metaverse

Digital representation of the world

Dynamic 365 Connected Spaces

Microsoft Mesh

Mesh for Microsoft Teams

Avatars with facial expression

Shared whiteboard

 

Judson A: Sustainability case study

 

Teams

Loop

Pages with flexible canvases

Loop components: Pull in content

Keep in sync

Multiple users can edit in Teams, Outlook, Word, or Teams mobile

 

Outlook

@ mentions

Automatically create meeting

 

Clip Champ

All your video needs in one place | Clipchamp

 

Teams Connect

External shared channels alongside internal channels

Collaborate with those outside company

Public Preview 2022Q1

 

Webinar

Virtual Green Room for presenters to prep

Curated attendee: Attendees see only shared content and guests invited to speak

ISV

Bring your apps into Teams

Bring Teams into your org

 

Viva Insights

Meeting suggestions provided to organizer

Create a meeting plan

"Send praise" feature

 

Dynamics 365

Supply Chain Insights

provide risk scores

Projected delivery dates

Storm surge risk

 

Power Automate

Process step map

Add comments to apps

 

Azure Arc

Hybrid and multicloud management

Virtual desktop in Azure Stack

 

SQL Server 2022 Preview announced

 

Azure Container Apps

Fully-managed and serverless platform

Does not use Kubernetes. Focus on apps

Upgrade path to Kubernetes

 

GitHub Codespaces

Create development machines in the cloud in <15 seconds

Access via web browser

 

New: Power Apps pay-as-you-go pricing model

Distribute Power Apps as native iOS and Android apps

Wednesday, November 3, 2021 3:47:06 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)