# Sunday, December 5, 2021

Nov 8
Today I am grateful for unseasonably warm Chicago weather.

Nov 9
Today I am grateful to work with my trainer yesterday for the first time in over 3 weeks.

Nov 10
Today I am grateful to see Kalamazoo College play at Elmhurst University last night.

Nov 11
Today I am grateful to all the veterans who have served our country.

Nov 12
Today I am grateful to see the Lemonheads in concert last night.

Nov 13
Today I am grateful for a productive work week.

Nov 14
Today I am grateful to see a home basketball game at Kalamazoo College for the first time in 2 season.

Nov 15
Today I am grateful for brunch yesterday in downtown Chicago with Andra and her husband and friends.

Nov 16
Today I am grateful for new jumper cables.

Nov 17
Today I am grateful for a new belt.

Nov 18
Today I am grateful to see Richard Thompson in concert last night.

Nov 19
Today I am grateful to speak at the Memphis .NET User Group last night.

Nov 20
Today I am grateful for the works of William Shakespeare.

Nov 21
Today I am grateful to see the great Nick Lowe in concert last night with Los Straitjackets.

Nov 22
Today I am grateful to complete my first project in Adobe Premiere Pro yesterday.

Nov 23
Today I am grateful that my city parking sticker finally arrived.

Nov 24
Today I am grateful to hang out with Peter, Shannon, and Michael last night at the Chicago Athletic Association.

Nov 25
Today I am grateful to Tim who treated Natale and me to an excellent dinner at Giant in Logan Square last night.

Nov 26
Today I am grateful for the opportunity to volunteer to make Thanksgiving dinners yesterday for seniors, shut-ins, homeless, and others.

Nov 27
Today I am grateful to celebrate Thanksgiving in Kalamazoo with my boys a day after Thanksgiving.

Nov 28
Today I am grateful:
-to attend an exciting MSU football game in the snow yesterday in East Lansing
-for dinner with Nick last night in Lansing

Nov 29
Today I am grateful for a 4-day weekend.

Nov 30
Today I am grateful for a chiropractor office across the street.

Dec 1
Today I am grateful for the first meeting of the school year mentoring students at Chicago Tech Academy.

Dec 2
Today I am grateful for easy returns and exchanges of online purchases.

Dec 3
Today I am grateful to see a production of "As You Like It" featuring the music of The Beatles on my first visit to the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre last night.

Dec 4
Today I am grateful to find good recipes online.

Dec 5
Today I am grateful to attend a high school basketball game for the first time in years.

Sunday, December 5, 2021 3:41:47 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, December 4, 2021

AsYouLikeItWilliam Shakespeare's "As You Like It" is a silly, farcical play about Rosalind - a young girl in exile who dresses as a man and advises young Orlando - also in exile - on how to woo and win the woman he loves. The twist is that Rosalind is the woman with whom he is in love. Among the many subplots: Rosalind’s father Duke Senior has been overthrown and exiled by his brother Duke Frederick; the shepherd boy Silvius is in love with Phoebe, who falls in love with Rosalind, whom she believes is a man; and Duke Frederick’s daughter Celia chooses exile with her cousin/best friend Rosalind against the wishes of her father. It is hard to take it seriously: No one recognizes Rosalind simply because she changes her outfit; multiple couples fall in love at first sight; and the story is wrapped up very quickly with a series of coincidences and changes of heart.

But it is a fun story and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre had fun with it. They removed some of the dialogue and replaced it with music from The Beatles. They also dressed the characters in 1960s attire and added a pro wrestling announcer.

Some songs fit really well into the storyline: the melancholy Jaques sings "Fool on the Hill" after meeting Touchstone the jester; Audrey and Touchstone - an older couple courting one another sing "When I'm 64"; Rosalind sings "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" as she hides her identity from and love for Orlando. But mostly, we hear the many love songs written by the Fab Four, or the audience is treated to a song that fits the mood ("While My Guitar Gently Weeps" entertains Duke Senior's exiled court).

The cast was excellent, highlighted by Kevin Guhdal as both Dukes and Kayvon Khoshkam as Touchstone. They were not averse to breaking the fourth wall ("Why are we hiding?" “Because it’s Shakespeare!")

The production breathed new life into an old play. It was a pleasure to see an old story in a new light.

Saturday, December 4, 2021 4:46:54 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# 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.
http://www.preserveusfromthehouseofclocks.com/

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.

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)