# 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.

https://kata-log.rocks/mars-rover-kata
http://blog.thesoftwarementor.com/

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.

Links:
https://github.com/mgroves/SqlServerToCouchbase
https://bit.ly/cbase2021

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)
# Monday, September 6, 2021

Episode 677

Sam Basu on NET MAUI

Sam Basu discusses .NET MAUI - the next generation of Xamarin Forms. It allows developers to write code in C# and XAML and target application at iOS, MacOS, Android, and Windows.

https://github.com/dotnet/maui

Monday, September 6, 2021 9:50:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, September 5, 2021

8/2
Today I am grateful for a walk around the Northwestern University campus yesterday.

8/3
Today I am grateful for my new dish rack

8/4
Today I am grateful for a celebration lunch playing virtual games with my team yesterday.

8/5
Today I am grateful for the opportunity to lead a Diversity & Inclusion workshop yesterday.

8/6
Today I am grateful to see Emmylou Harris and Los Lobos in concert last night.

8/7
Today I am grateful to break up last night's bike ride with a margarita and live music at a waterside café.

8/8
Today I am grateful for an outdoor movie in back of the Music Box Theatre last night.

8/9
Today I am grateful to hang out in Evanston, eating, drinking, and talking with friends in anticipation of a concert that was ultimately canceled due to severe weather.

8/10
Today I am grateful for a box full of supplies and replacement parts for my CPAP.

8/11
Today I am grateful to escape last night's storm by minutes.

8/12
Today I am grateful for my new electric toothbrush.

8/13
Today I am grateful to make it safely to Michigan late last night.

8/14
Today I am grateful to reconnect with many high school friends in Grosse Pointe last night.

8/15
Today I am grateful to attend my high school reunion last night.

8/16
Today I am grateful for lunch with Betsy yesterday.

8/17
Today I am grateful for a new docking station, mouse, keyboard, monitor, and headset to make it easier to develop on my work laptop.

8/18
Today I am grateful for new lights for my bike.

8/19
Today I am grateful to accidentally stumble upon a concert at the 31st Street Beach last night.

8/20
Today I am grateful for a negative COVID test yesterday.

8/21
Today I am grateful to attend the re-opening night of Buddy Guy's Legends blues club last nigh.

8/22
Today I am grateful to finish setting up the workspace in my home office yesterday.

8/23
Today I am grateful for a bike ride to and from Indiana yesterday.

8/24
Today I am grateful for my new Echo Dot.

8/25
Today I am grateful for dinner with Mike last night.

8/26
Today I am grateful for a conversation with Steve last night.

8/27
Today I am grateful for the taste of cashews.

8/28
Today I am grateful to see Mike Zito perform an excellent blues concert last night in Evanston.

8/29
Today I am grateful for dinner with John and Kim last night.

8/30
Today I am grateful for a productive day yesterday.

8/31
Today I am grateful my sons and I discovered a nearby deli with excellent sandwiches last night.

9/1
Today I am grateful that my son Nick is visiting me this week.

9/2
Today I am grateful to celebrate Tim's birthday last night in Logan Square.

9/3
Today I am grateful to see improv at my first visit to Laugh Factory.

9/4
Today I am grateful to witness a decisive Spartan victory in Evanston last night.

9/5
Today I am grateful to visit the Pullman National Monument yesterday on its opening day.

Sunday, September 5, 2021 2:14:47 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# 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)