Azure Data Explorer Overview Talk

I’ve written about Azure Data Explorer (aka Kusto) before, and I realize that many of you aren’t geeks, but for those who have geek-ish tendencies, I want to share a great talk from our Israel team. (These are people that I met on my trip last February.) It’s a couple hours long, but if you watch the first 45 minutes, it will give you a great overview of the product and maybe help you understand why I’ve been so excited to work with it for the past years.

My job revolves around petabyte datasets and analyzing new data within minutes of it getting created at the source. This product was a game changer in what we were able to achieve and promise to our users. I realize that 45 minutes is a non-trivial chunk of time, but if you’re in the data space, I think you’ll find it valuable or at least intriguing.

My News Source

Staying informed is tough. For a long time, I’ve stayed away from the news because it riles me up. So when I heard about NewsNation from WGN, I was intrigued. They’ve gone to great lengths to take a legitimate shot at being unbiased with a team of rhetoricians that analyze every story. I realize this sounds bogus and lots of other sources say they do similar things, but after using their app and reading their articles for the last month, I give it the thumbs up. The articles almost feel dry… which is a good thing in this case. I find that I’m able to stay up to speed on current events in less time with less emotion. All that means I expect it will fail before too long. You can’t open a brussel sprout business next to a McDonalds and expect succeed, but I’m enjoying my brussel sprouts for now.

I’ve also been running through some candidate quizzes. I don’t necessarily trust any specific ones more than others, but I take a few of them and compare the results. My only criteria is that the quiz needs to have more than just the two main candidates. When I take these quizzes, it’s interesting to see how much the candidates overlap on many issues. It’s easy to think that candidate A is a 100% match and the others are 0% but that’s never the case for me. So I will continue to woosah. It’s going to be ok.

Chest of Drawers

I wrote previously about the culmination of a year-long project (previous post). Now I’ve also completed the video showing some of what it took to get there. I edited that year down to about 17 minutes. Apologies for not wearing a mic during the speaking parts but hopefully it’s good enough to convey the basic idea.

This was a labor of love and I hope that it serves Elijah for many years to come. And Elijah, by no means are you required to keep this around forever, but if you decide to replace it, please let me know so I can come retrieve it!

Denon AVR-S540BT Review

Believe it or not, it’s been quite a while since we’ve had good surround sound in the theater room upstairs. It’s mainly used for watching a sitcom episode or two with Tyla in the evenings, but still, it would be nice to have when we watch a movie. I never paid much attention until recently when I figured out that all the streaming services are using Dolby Digital Plus and my old receiver can’t decode that. So unless I’m running it through the Xbox One (which has been moved downstairs), there’s nothing to transcode it down to something simple enough for my receiver to handle. On top of that, I have dreams of moving all these electronics to 4k over the next couple years and this receiver can only do 1080p. It was time for an upgrade.

After some research, I landed on the Denon AVR-S540BT. It’s a fairly low end receiver from a good company. It’s not going to set any records for specs, but it fits the bill and doesn’t make too big of a dent in my wallet. It has 5 HDMI ports which makes it much easier to handle the various devices, will support 4k video and handles most of the latest codecs except some of the very latest extra-speaker codecs that I’m highly unlikely to use. And the nice thing about it being on the cheaper end is that I won’t feel bad if I need to replace it in 5 years.

One bonus feature that I wasn’t expecting to use much is the Bluetooth support. The receiver turns on automatically when a Bluetooth connection is made and then shuts off after 15 minutes of no use. I have my office in this room so I can just connect from my phone and play music on the nice sound system. It’s a good setup.

This has always been a budget theater room so I think this new receiver fits right in, and honestly, I’m not enough of an audiophile to know the difference. This one is a winner in my book.

COVID-19: Day 201

Here we are more than six months into the lockdown and 99.94% of Americans haven’t died from the disease… but that’s still over 200,000 dead Americans. If you look at all the US military deaths in every war/skirmish/conflict of since the end of World War 2, whether it was in combat or not, COVID has still killed more people and it’s clearly not done yet. We’ll probably be able to throw World War 1 into that equation before we’re done.

I haven’t written a post for about six weeks, but the story hasn’t changed much. Every time I think about writing a post I realize that I’ve already said that. So today let’s look back at some quotes from previous posts and see how they held up:

One challenge is that new data is arriving all the time as the world’s scientific community joins forces to figure this virus out. (March 6)

This quote came on March 6 which is one week before my lockdown counter started, but it’s still true today. There’s a lot we don’t understand and the scientific community is still learning. This is never going to end. We’re still learning about how the common flu spreads and that’s been around for 100 years. The one thing clear about this virus is that it is the perfect mix of incubation rate and mortality rate to be smack dab in that gray area where people can argue about it while the bodies pile up.

Humans aren’t great at absorbing the implications of math, especially in two ways that make this a tough problem. First, it’s hard to grasp the speed of exponential growth. … The second math complication is that humans don’t process probability well. (March 14)

Yep. If people understood the data, why would they be pushing back so hard against the lockdown guidance? I realize that my simplistic engineering-brain logic is flawed, but I ask myself this question daily.

Do we all agree that it’s bad if this spreads unabated? … Do we all agree that this spreads very quickly when we don’t do anything about it? (March 24)

I don’t have these questions anymore because it’s very clear that we don’t all agree on these fundamental issues.

In the end, my bar is “If everyone did this, would it be ok?” You can twist that in lots of ways to make anything seem permissible or not, but when viewed honestly and for lack of anything better, it feels like a reasonable starting point. (April 6)

That ethical bar of “if everyone did this, would it be ok?” isn’t my own idea but it always stuck with me as a good guideline. Are you going to die from COVID if you attend a party? Probably not, but it’s clearly not good if everyone did that. Unfortunately, Americans (and sinful humans in general) focus on optimizing for personal happiness.

Now that there is a glimmer of hope, people are starting to think about when we can lift the bans. Short summary: don’t hold your breath. Let’s look at the data. We just peaking now. We’re roughly halfway through this. (April 15)

“Halfway through this”. Nope. Not even close. My new guess is that either we start getting back to “normal” next summer or we live in some sort of hybrid situation for a very long time. I do believe that science will solve this eventually, but it remains to be seen how good the vaccines are, how long they last, and how many people will take them.

What’s the right balance point? I think all we know for sure right now is that “it depends”. With this heavy social and political push to end the lockdown, it feels pretty inevitable that we’re going to start growing exponentially again. Very little has changed since the first growth period. Social distancing is the only tool we have to fight this. … I do think we’re going to oscillate back and forth a bit until we find the least amount of lockdown that keeps us at some sustainable balance of infections and economic pain. I don’t think anybody has the answers about what that balance point is yet so we’ll have to fail a few times as we get it figured out. (April 29)

We’ve seen this play out across the country as various states go through waves alternating of infection and lockdown. The waves are getting smaller but they’re still coming. Here in King County we’ve been through two waves but it’s looking like wave 3 is starting.

As if deciding how to handle things inside my own family wasn’t enough of a challenge, I’m also an elder at church which means I’ve been having a lot of difficult meetings to figure out how to minister to our members…. My main challenge in this was separating out valid Christian needs and desires from political anger and frustration. (June 13)

Being part of the leadership at church is the toughest job I’ve ever had at church. I’m asked to guide people away from human weakness and sin while accepting viewpoints that differ from my own but still align with the Bible.

So in conclusion, as I look back over all these posts, I see lots of data that explains the spread of the virus and the impact it’s having on our world, but I think there’s plenty of that available now. These are the key ones that I look at to form my opinions:

I feel like I’ve made all the points I can make with data showing the spread of the virus and why we as Christians are bound to comply with the lockdown, but I know I can’t change the world. So if I post on this again, it will be because I’ve figured out how to post about the impact this pandemic is having on our family without getting too far into the “why” of our choices. If the why isn’t clear yet, more posts aren’t going to change that.

On a more positive note, school has been a bright spot in our life. We struggled with the decision about whether to send Elijah or not, but after watching the school go through months of preparation for this year and reading through the comprehensive plan they created to comply with all the guidelines, we’re happy to see it going smoothly. Not only are people following the rules but they seem to be doing so willingly and with cheer. It has been a very positive experience.

I struggle with how to wrap up these thoughts, but I want to mention that Pastor is going through a new Bible study series on the Psalms. While we haven’t gotten to Psalm 62 yet, it felt like a fitting way to end this post:

My soul, rest quietly in God alone,
for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress.
I will not be disturbed.
My salvation and my honor depend on God, my strong rock.
My refuge is in God.
Trust in him at all times, you people.
Pour out your hearts before him.
God is a refuge for us. (Psalm 62:5-8)