# Sunday, November 28, 2021

How did I not know about this book before? A Walking Tour of the Shambles was written by two of my favourite authors: Neil Gaiman and Gene Wolfe; and it is about Chicago - the city in which I have lived the past 7+ years.

I travel a lot and I buy a lot of guidebooks that contain suggested walking tours, pointing out sites along the walker's path and this looks very much like a real guidebook. It even has the number "16" in the corner, suggesting that there are others in this same series.

But there are no other guidebooks in this series. It is false. Nearly everything in this book is false. The Shambles is purported to be a neighborhood in Chicago, but no such neighborhood exists. And if it did, it would probably not contain a house full of murderous grandfather clocks; or man-eating crocodiles; or Cereal House, where you must provide the name of your next of kin before daring to spend the night.

Still, Gaiman and Wolfe did their homework. They recommend that tourists visit the home of H.H. Holmes; Holmes was a real person. He was a notorious serial killer who murdered dozens of Chicagoans in the late nineteenth century. But his house of horrors was in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood and has long since been demolished. Chicago does have a Canal Street, but it is clearly not the dangerous Canal Street described in this book.

The House of Clocks does not exist, but it does have its own website.

While not among their best works, this slim volume is fun and funny, and scary, and it made me smile. Those of us who are fans of Gaiman and Wolfe will enjoy it.

Sunday, November 28, 2021 7:27:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, November 27, 2021

NickLoweIn early 2019, the COVID pandemic interrupted the tour of Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets, or as Lowe described it: "It was a forced layoff." They recently returned to the road, but only for two weeks, concluding the brief tour Saturday night at Park West.

Other than a brief flash in the late 1970s, Lowe never achieved broad commercial success. But he is known in the music industry as an outstanding songwriter and producer and at 72, his baritone vocals sound as good as ever.

He delighted the packed auditorium, opening with three upbeat rockers ("So It Goes", "Ragin' Eyes", and "Without Love") before slowing things down with the melancholy "Lately I've Let Things Slide", a song that seemed appropriate for those of us struggling with isolation these past two years.

Los Straitjackets were an excellent backing band, staying mostly out of Lowe's spotlight, despite sporting Luchador masks, making them look like Mexican wrestlers in dark suits. Lowe stepped offstage for about 15 minutes mid-concert to allow Los Straitjackets to perform some of the surfer-rock- influenced instrumentals for which they are best known.

Lowe returned to the stage to complete the set, finishing with a rousing version of his classic "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll)".

He returned for an encore - a moving version of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding performed" - the excellent song he wrote that was made famous by Elvis Costello. Surprisingly, he returned for a second encore - a beautiful cover of Elvis Costello's "Alison".

It was an outstanding show. Nick Lowe has not missed a step in the years he has been touring. I last saw him in a solo performance 14 years ago at a small club in Michigan. He was great then; he was great when I first discovered him in my high school years; and he was great Saturday night at Park West.

Saturday, November 27, 2021 7:30:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# 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.

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.


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.


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


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.


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

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

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

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

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

Today I am grateful for my personal trainer.

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

Today I am grateful for 2 weeks in Croatia.

Today I am grateful for plenty of sleep yesterday.

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

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

Today I am grateful for leftover Halloween candy.

Today I am grateful for my chiropractor.

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

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

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

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)