# Sunday, March 17, 2019

NakedLunchNaked Lunch by William S. Burroughs is a difficult book to read and to understand. I'm still not sure I do.

The book consists of a series of descriptions of the visions seen while high on heroine, morphine, or some derivative thereof. Many of the visions consist of deviant sexual fantasies, including sadomasochistic scenarios so extreme that they lead to murder and suicide.

Burroughs was one of the most famous writers of the influential "Beat Generation", although he never approached the fame and success of his friends Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac

Burroughs spent much of his adult life in a drugged-out haze and many of the visions told here are based on his own experiences. "Naked Lunch” written largely in a drug-induced haze, which may have increase Burroughs's creativity; but it clearly pushed him toward a very confused story.

Shortly after its publication, Naked Lunch was banned as pornography in Massachusetts.

I disagree with attempts to ban this book; but I fail to see its value as a classic. It is a non-linear narrative with no discernable plot or story. Apparently, several of the characters are the same character with different pseudonyms. But I don't know how anyone could figure that out without being told. As a result, it is far less compelling than other non-linear classics, such as Joseph Heller's excellent Catch-22.

I respect the fact that Burroughs pushed boundaries in the literary world and that he influenced other writers. The author sometimes captures the paranoia and other-worldliness of drug addiction. But Naked Lunch tries too hard to shock the reader. I can only take so much talk of vomit and jizz and people shitting themselves before it all sounds like rambling.

I will give the book the credit it deserves for one thing: The great rock/jazz band Steely Dan took their name from a brand of sex devices described in Naked Lunch.

Sunday, March 17, 2019 8:37:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, March 16, 2019

OddAndTheFrostGiantsNeil Gaiman knows how to tell a story. And Odd and the Frost Giants is no exception.

Odd was a crippled Norse boy in the age of the Vikings. Odd's father was dead, and his mother had re-married a neglectful man. One day, Odd rescued a bear and was followed home by the beast, along with an eagle and a fox. The three creatures turned out to be the gods Thor, Odin, and Loki transformed by an evil frost giant and cast out of Asgard, as part of a plot to steal Thor's hammer Mjolnir and to kidnap the beautiful goddess Freya.

Odd and the trio set out for Asgard to rescue Mjolnir and Freya.

Undersized and weak, Odd proves more valuable than expected.

This is a short, but delightful book - not only for its story and its characters - but for Gaiman's prose. One can imagine him sitting around a campfire and relaying the tale to a circle of Vikings who listen in wonder. As a bonus, each chapter features a beautiful ink drawing by Brett Helquist. Readers of "A Series of Unfortunate Events" will know his work; but, in this book, each drawing has the look of a woodcut, giving it a distinctly Nordic feel.

Odd and the Frost Giants is targeted at school-age children, but I am well into my 50s and I enjoyed it.

Saturday, March 16, 2019 8:33:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, March 15, 2019

IMG_3727Not only did I fail to see "Miss Saigon" in the 20 years since its premier in London's West End, I failed to learn anything about the show. I didn't know who wrote it, I haven't heard a song, and I did not know the plot. I didn't even know that it is an adaptation of Puccini’s "Madame Butterfly" opera.

That all changed Thursday night at the Wharton Enter in East Lansing, MI. My niece and I braved a hail storm and flooded streets to grab second-row tickets to see a touring company as it passed through mid-Michigan.

To spoil it for those of you who did as little research as I did: Miss Saigon tells the story of Chris, an American G.I., who falls in love with Kim, a young Vietnamese girl during the Vietnam War. When Saigon falls to the Viet Cong, Chris escapes, but Kim does not. It's a tragic story of war and lost love and what might have been.

The performance at Wharton was wonderful,

Emily Bautista and Anthony Festa moved our hearts as the star-crossed lover.

But the show was stolen by "The Engineer" - a sleazy night club / brothel host/manager, who manipulates Kim and other women, but somehow gains some sympathy from the audience. I believe Thursday night's performance featured understudy Eymard Cabling, rather than the regular Red Concepcion in this role. Regardless, he played the character flawlessly.

Another scene-stealer was the micro-urchin who played Kim's son Tam. He had no lines, but he overwhelmed us with is cuteness every time he stepped on stage.

I didn't hear any hit songs, but he music of "Miss Saigon" always satisfied. Song flowed into song so frequently that there were fewer opportunities to applaud than most shows afford. There were no low points in a lovely musical score, which was carried well by the cast.

The stage setting was very impressive for a small-city touring company. The highlight was a helicopter that loomed over the U.S. Consulate in Saigon to rescue the last of the refugees before the city's fall. One could almost smell the diesel coming off this impressive effect.

The final scene left the audience in tears.

Our attendance was a late decision, but this was an evening very well spent and one I will remember for a long time. It was well worth a trek through the hail and floods.

Friday, March 15, 2019 2:20:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, March 14, 2019

GCast 39:

Azure Search REST API

Azure Search allows you to make your internal data searchable in the same way that search engines like Google and Bing make public information on the Internet searchable.

Thursday, March 14, 2019 8:31:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Sometimes, I like to build fancy automations in Microsoft PowerPoint.

PowerPoint provides a simple way to animate objects on a slide. The steps are:
Select an object,
choose an animation
Set properties (e.g. timing) of that object

When a slide has a complex animations, you can end up with a lot of objects to manage. Sometimes those objects are stacked on top of one another, as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1

This makes it difficult to select the desired object. Further, if some shapes look alike, it's difficult to know which one to select.

PowerPoint provides a feature to help with this: The Selection Pane.

It's a good bet you've never used the Selection Pane, because it is not obvious where to find it.

To show this pane, select the Home ribbon (Fig. 2); then, select Select | Selection Pane, as shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

The Selection Pane displays, as shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 4

Each object on the current slide is listed. Notice that it each item is given a generic name, based on the type of shape.

You can rename any shape by double-clicking the shape name in the Selection Pane, typing in a new name, and pressing ENTER, as shown in Fig. 5 and Fig. 6.

Fig. 5

Fig. 6

Fig. 7 shows all the objects with more meaningful names. When I'm working with a complex slide, I like to rename each object to something to easily identify it.

Fig. 7

Clicking the icon to the right of each object name allows you to toggle the visibility of that object. Hiding objects on top of and around an object can make it much easier to select and work on a given object. Fig. 8 shows the slide with every object hidden except the 2 circles.

Fig. 8

When you are finished working on objects, click the icon(s) again to reveal the hidden objects.

The PowerPoint Selection Pane is a little-used feature that can make it much easier to work with animations and complex slides in PowerPoint.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019 7:04:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Tuesday, March 12, 2019

In a previous article, we saw how to create an Azure IoT Hub.    

In this article, we will show how to add devices to the IoT Hub.

When I first began working with IoT hub devices, I was confused by language that suggested I was "Adding" or "Creating" a device. What we are really doing is registering a device with the hub, so that a physical device of the same name can communicate with this hub. When you see words like "Add" and "Create", think of the fact that it is adding and creating the registration entry.

To begin, log into the Azure Portal and navigate to your IoT Hub, as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1

Click "IoT devices" to open the "IoT devices" blade, as shown in Fig. 2.

Fig. 2

If this hub has any devices, you will see them listed. You can use the fields at the top to filter the list to more quickly find one or more devices.

To add a new device, click the [Add] button (Fig. 2) to display the "Create a device" blade, as shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

At the "Device ID", enter a name for this device. The name must be unique among this hub's devices.

At the "Authentication type", select the type of authentication you wish this device to use. If you select "Symmetric key", you have the option to enter your keys or allow the system to generate keys for you.

Click the [Save] button to create this device.

After a few seconds, the device is created and displays in the device list of the "IoT devices" blade, as shown in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5

If you click on the device, you can see the "Device details" for this device, as showin in Fig. 6.

Fig. 6

The connection string is required to target this specific device.

Now that you have a device registered, a device of that name can communicate with this hub.

Azure | IoT
Tuesday, March 12, 2019 9:48:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, March 11, 2019

Episode 554

Ondrej Balas on 2-Factor Authentication

Ondrej Balas discusses advances in 2-Factor Authentication and tells us how to add this security to our applications.

Monday, March 11, 2019 9:31:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Brodie Set were a group of six pre-teen girls at The Marcia Blaine School in Edenborough, who were completely devoted to their favourite Teacher - Miss Jean Brodie.

Miss Brodie was proud and eccentric. She refused to teach the defined curriculum - instead instructing girls on how to be proper young ladies or captivating them with tales of her travels and adventures. Miss Brodie believed she was in her prime and she let everyone know it. She would often brag "Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life." "You girls are my vocation", she insists. "I am dedicated to you in my prime." This does not endear the teacher to the administration of this 1930s private school, who search for a reason to dismiss her.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark follows the girls throughout their school years, as they grow up under the influence of Miss Brodie, who takes them to museums and tea parties and to the homes of her friends. Brodie continues to be a strong influence on their lives, even after they graduate to the Senior school and she is no longer their teacher.

In some ways, Miss Brodie is a lovely person: She is bright and imaginative, passionate about art and music and history, and fiercely loyal to her girls. But in other ways, her flaws show through. She is an admirer of fascism in the years before World War II, showering compliments upon both Mussolini and Hitler.

Worst of all, she is manipulative of the girls she is mentoring. At one point, Brodie falls in love with a married teacher and, knowing she cannot have him, she conspires to have one of the girls sleep with him instead. She even makes sure another girl is with them to report back to Miss Brodie. The plan backfires when the art teacher begins an affair with the wrong girl.

The story often jumps ahead to the grown-up girls of the Set - sometimes by parenthetically revealing a bit about a girl's future ("Rose, who would later be famous for sex") and sometimes with an entire scene taking place among the older girls or with an aging Miss Brodie, who dies shortly after passing out of her "prime".
  Because of the flash-forwards, we know that Jenny will become a nun; that Mary will die young; that Rose will be famous for sex; and that Miss Brodie will be fired after being betrayed by one of her pupils. But the humor and intelligence of Spark's writing keeps the reader engaged until the end.

In fact, it is Spark's wit that kept me engaged throughout this short novel. She perfectly captures the eccentric schoolteacher and the teenage girls gossiping about school and sex and who they are and what they will become.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie is a short, but excellent novel about the effects - both positive and negative - that a strong role model can have on impressionable youth. It is told in a way to delight the reader.

Sunday, March 10, 2019 9:57:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, March 9, 2019

Sometimes, the American dream is a reality. And sometimes, it is an illusion.

Seymour "Swede" Levov had the perfect life. He grew up tall and handsome and was the best athlete in Newark, New Jersey. After the war, Swede married Miss New Jersey, fathered a beautiful little girl, and began training to take over his father's glove factory. He was good at his job; his wife loved him; his daughter was perfect, except for a stuttering problem; he was successful at work.

Everybody body loved and admired Swede Levov.

Everybody envied Swede Levov.

But Swede's life was far from perfect.

"American Pastoral by Philip Roth tells Swede's story.

In high school, Swede's daughter Merry became involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement; and, at the age of 16, she blew up the local general store and Post Office, killing a local physician. She disappeared that day.

Too much came easy for Swede. His great skill was excelling at those things that were expected of him; and he spent most of his life trying to do just that: He worked hard, he was kind to others, he loved his wife and daughter. He even kept his Newark factory open after the city was racked by riots and crime increased and it became impossible to hire high-quality craftsman. It wasn't enough.

Swede's idyllic life was an illusion. His outward success is a façade, hiding the turmoil and tragedy that plagued him and his family.
Swede searches (mostly) in vain for his daughter. His efforts result in disappointment and exploitation. Even when he finds her, he gains no closure from the incident. Merry has moved from her life as a violent terrorist; but now embraces a self-destructive philosophy that leaves her sick and pathetic and still rejecting the morals of her father.

Swede almost deals with his weaknesses and the weaknesses of those closest to him with logic and hard work and perseverance.

It is never enough.

In the end, he beats himself up trying to decide who is to blame for Merry's fall. Did she fall because of some mistake he made as a parent? Was she seduced by a radical organization?

He never finds the answers.

I loved Roth's prose and the inner dialogue he gave to his main character and the outer dialogue between the characters. The sequences where Swede and his teenage daughter argue about her limits ring true to anyone who has raised intelligent and sometimes defiant teenagers.

Roth's story gripped me throughout. I felt Swede's helplessness; I felt the jealousy of his brother; I felt the frustration of Merry, who could not live up to her parents ideals and chose a path of self-destruction instead; I felt the disappointment of those who discovered he wasn't the hero they believed; I felt the victimization of Swede's wife, who was bullied by her father-in-law before their wedding; and I felt the collapse of the American dream.

At least, the dream of Swede Levov.

Saturday, March 9, 2019 9:44:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Friday, March 8, 2019

The Internet of Things, or IoT, allows you to capture data from devices across the planet and use the power of the cloud to store and manage that data.

Microsoft Azure offers IoT Hubs as a way to capture data from Internet-connected devices.

To create a new IoT hub, navigate to the Azure portal and log in.

Click the [Create a resource] button (Fig. 1) and select Internet of Things | IoT hub from the menu, as shown in Fig. 2.

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

The "IoT hub" blade displays, as shown in Fig. 3.

Fig. 3

At the "Subscription" field, select the subscription in which you want to store this hub. Many of you will have only one subscription and it will already be selected.

At the "Resource Group" field, select a Resource Group in which to store this hub. You can create a new Resource Group by clicking the "Create new" link and entering a name for the new group, as shown in Fig. 4.

Fig. 4

At the "Region" field, select the geographic region in which you want your hub to be located. Considerations include the location of the devices that will connect to this hub and the location other systems with which the hub will interact.

At the "IoT Hub Name" field, enter a unique name for this hub.

After you have completed the form, click the [Review + create] button. A summary page displays, as shown in Fig. 5.

Fig. 5

If any errors display, click the [Previous] button and correct them; Otherwise, click the [Create] button to create a new IoT Hub. It will take several minutes to deploy all the necessary resources and create this hub.

After the hub is created, you can navigate to it, as showing in Fig. 6.

Fig. 6

The "Overview" blade is selected by default and displays summary information about your hub, as well as links to documentation, so you can learn more about managing and working with this hub.

In this article, you learned how to create a new Azure IoT hub. A hub requires more configuration to be useful. We will cover this configuration in a future article.

Azure | IoT
Friday, March 8, 2019 9:47:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)