# Monday, September 28, 2020

Episode 628

Alexandria Storm on Natural Language Processing and Inclusion

Alexandria Storm talks about the importance of having an inclusive group when developing software. She recently completed an internship with the Microsoft Bing team and she describes how a diverse representation can improve natural language processing - making searches more relevant by supporting different languages and dialects and taking into account location-sensitive searches.

She also discusses the importance of inclusion among tech companies and entrepreneurs for underrepresented groups, such as women, people of color, and queer and trans people.

Monday, September 28, 2020 9:09:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, September 27, 2020

When Fat Charlie's father died, he learned some secrets about his family: Charlie had a brother named Spider; and their father was in reality the mischievous god Anansi.

Spider shows up at Charlie's door and almost immediately begins using his magic to disrupt Charlie's life.

Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys is a series of misadventures that takes the reader through alternate realities, ghosts, animal gods and demi-gods, voodoo, and a Caribbean kidnapping. The story draws a contrast between the timid, hyper-average Charlie and his father and brother, who spent their lives focused on wine, women, and song. But it also takes us through transformations as each brother is influenced by the other.

Like the spider-god Anansi, this story weaves a web that traps the characters and the reader in a funny, intriguing quest.

It is great fun in the way that Neil Gaiman has perfected. An excellent story, even by the standards set by Neil!

Sunday, September 27, 2020 9:46:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 26, 2020

I enjoyed Eternity's Wheel more than the first two books of the InterWorld trilogy. As with the preceding books, Neil Gaiman's name appears at the top of the authors list, but it was actually written by Mallory Reaves with her father Michael assisting with the ideas.

This book wraps up the FrostNight saga that began in volume 2 - The Silver Dream.

The villains of Binary (which derives their power from science) and HEX (which derives their power from magic) have launched FrostNight in order to destroy all the different earth's from the different dimensions in order to take dominion over the chaos that remains. Joey Harker and the countless other versions of himself that make up InterWorld are battling to stop them. They are assisted by Timewatch - a police force that seeks to stabilize threats to the time stream.

The book is not complex but it introduces some interesting new characters and evolves some existing ones; and includes some clever possible time loop twists.

Saturday, September 26, 2020 10:39:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, September 24, 2020

GCast 95:

Creating a MinIO Agent for Azure Blob Storage

Learn how to use MinIO to manage blobs in an Azure Storage Account

Thursday, September 24, 2020 12:25:40 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, September 21, 2020

Episode 627

Irma Mesa on Cafecito

Irma Mesa created Cafecito for those who are working from home. Cafecito uses machine learning algorithms to connect people to others with similar interests and schedule time to meet. She talks about building this technology and business and about the b2b service she is planning.

Monday, September 21, 2020 8:54:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, September 20, 2020

Rachel became fascinated by the sight of a beautiful copy that she would see from her seat on the train every morning. She fantasized about their idyllic life, so she was shocked to see the young wife kissing another man one morning and to learn the next day that this same wife had disappeared. She began investigating the disappearance and it was not long until she had injected herself into the incident and the lives of those involved.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is told by three different women:

  • Rachel - An alcoholic who often drinks to the point of blacking out. She is reeling from the loss of her husband, who left her to marry his mistress.
  • Megan - Married to an emotionally abusive husband. She loves him but cannot resist sleeping with other men. She is haunted by a dark secret in her past.
  • Anna - The mistress who took away Rachel's husband. Her idyllic life with her new husband and baby is disrupted by Rachel's stalking.

The story involves the sudden disappearance of Megan. Rachel becomes obsessed with the case. Although she never met Megan, she would see her from her train nearly every day and fantasize about the perfect marriage she witnessed.

This suspenseful novel kept me interested until the end.

I loved the way the author began Megan's story a year before Rachel's, so we were able to see what led to her disappearance; I loved how Hawkins often related the same scene from three different perspectives; I loved how key factors were withheld and revealed later, taking the reader in a new direction; and I loved that each of the narrators was fatally flawed and unreliable, so we were left to guess at the truth.

The only weak point came near the end when the villain arrogantly and foolishly began relating their crime, reminiscent of a James Bond villain.

But this can be forgiven after the rollercoaster ride that is this novel.

Sunday, September 20, 2020 9:39:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, September 19, 2020

Like most slackers, Jake Donaghue seldom puts thought into the future or the consequences of his actions.

Hoping to find a free place to stay, Jake visits his old girlfriend Anna and her actress sister Sadie. He then attempts to re-connect with his estranged friend Hugo. Jake was once close to each of these people but left them abruptly when he felt uncomfortable.

Iris Murdoch's Under the Net takes us through Jake's misadventures, including his kidnapping of a movie star dog, a riot on a film set, and an escape from a hospital.

The book focuses on miscommunications and the resulting misunderstandings and the incorrect perceptions that people tend to have of one another. Jake spends much of the novel searching for someone. He is ultimately searching for himself.

It is a farcical story of the self-destruction of a likeable rogue.

And it is great fun!

Saturday, September 19, 2020 9:53:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, September 17, 2020

GCast 94:

Creating a MinIO Server

Learn how to create a MinIO server, organize into buckets; then, read and write files to the server.

Thursday, September 17, 2020 9:21:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, September 14, 2020

Episode 626

Nayonna Purnell on Changing to a Career in IT

Nayonna Purnell was a teacher who decided a few years ago to change careers and become a software engineer. She talks abuot her journey, the challenges, and the rewards of that journey.

Monday, September 14, 2020 8:17:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# 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)