# Thursday, March 26, 2020

GCast 79:

Creating a Workflow from Scratch in Power Automate

This video shows how to create a workflow in Microsoft Power Automate without starting from a template.

Thursday, March 26, 2020 7:51:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, March 21, 2020

NativeSonBigger Thomas was scared, and he was angry. He had reasons to be scared and angry. He was a 20-year-old black man living in the ghetto of segregated 1930s Chicago.

In Bigger's new job as a chauffeur for businessman / philanthropist Henry Dalton, he was told to give a ride to Dalton's radical daughter Mary. Mary and her Communist boyfriend went out of their way to show kindness to Bigger, which only angered him more.

24 hours later, Bigger had killed two women - one accidentally and the other to protect himself.

There are no heroes in Richard Wright's 1940 novel Native Son.

The protagonist is decidedly unsympathetic and in no way likable. Bigger is a bully, he is self-absorbed, and he is an unrepentant criminal. He spends most of the book rationalizing his terrible actions. He was quick to anger and quick to turn to violence and he blamed all his problems on others, even physically attacking his friends when it suited him. At one point, he tried to frame an innocent man for his crime. His own weaknesses make him angry; But he directs that anger toward others and punishes everyone around him. He is amoral and self-unaware and he has been that way most of his life.

But Wright reminds us that society must shoulder a share of the blame for Bigger's fate. Economic and educational opportunities are denied to the young negro and to all his people, because of the color of their skin.

The kindly Mr. Dalton gives money to black charities and treats the black people he meets with kindness and respect; but he owns apartment buildings across the city and he refuses to rent white neighborhood apartments to black tenants and he charges higher rents in the black neighborhoods.

Others exploit Bigger's crimes to their own agenda. The right-wing racists point to Bigger as an example of the danger of allowing too much freedom to blacks; the left-wing Communists point to his situation as the product of an unfair social and economic system. Each side uses the case to amplify their own agenda.

The police and the press pile more charges on top of the ones to which he confesses. Of course, they treat the killing of a rich white girl as far more serious than the murder of a poor black girl.

Still, the reader feels for many of these characters, despite their flaws. Our heart aches for the Dalton family who lose their only daughter; and for the Thomas family who lose their son. I even felt the panic rising as the police closed in on Bigger.

Although this story took place over 80 years ago, much of the segregation and polarization still exists. And though the vast majority of blacks never turn to the extreme violence of Bigger Thomas, many still feel the pressures of a system that is often oppressive.

Bigger is a tragic figure - alone and isolated, he cannot connect with society or with his family or even with other blacks. He lashes out in the only way he knows.

His violence serves as a warning to us all.

Saturday, March 21, 2020 8:46:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, March 19, 2020

GCast 78:

Creating a Workflow from a Microsoft Power Automate Template

Microsoft Power Automate (formerly Microsoft Flow) allows users to create workflows without writing any code. Learn how to create a workflow from one of the many templates shipping with Power Automate.

Thursday, March 19, 2020 8:49:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, March 16, 2020

Episode 602

Jaidev Kunjur on Azure Integration Tools

Jaidev Kunjur of Enkay Technology Solutions discusses some of the integration tools available in Microsoft Azure, such as Logic Apps, API Management, Azure Functions, and Event Grid.

He describes the capabilities of these tools and how his company is using them to solve integration problems for their customers.

Monday, March 16, 2020 9:44:52 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, March 14, 2020

GoldenNotebookIn Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook, protagonist Anna Wulf serves as a surrogate for Lessing, expressing the philosophies and doubts of the author; And the fictional Wulf is a writer who injects herself into the Ella - the protagonist of her own novel.

Notebook tells Anna's story in a non-linear fashion, switching between a third person narrative of the life of Anna and her social circles and the contents of her four journals. The journals are organized by topic, rather by time. Anna hopes to better understand herself by writing down all her thoughts. But she recognizes the different aspects of herself and decides to capture each aspect in a separate notebook, organized (in her own words) as follows:

"A black notebook, which is to do with Anna Wolf the writer;
a red notebook, concerned with politics;
a yellow notebook, in which I make stories out of my experience;
and a blue notebook which tries to be a diary."

The book jumps around in time and in perspective, making it fragmented and sometimes difficult to follow. But it is fragmented because Anna is fragmented. She realizes she has contradictions in her life and she separates them, unsuccessfully trying to minimize her anxiety.

She struggles with her political beliefs. The idealism that led her to Communism is challenged by the corruption of the Stalin regime and her commitment to the party wanes.

She is confident and sexually liberated, but she struggles with her relationship with men, often entering into destructive relationships with men who mistreat her.

She challenges the role of women in society but allows herself to be controlled by others.

She wrote a successful novel and writes almost daily but has no interest in publishing again or allowing her novel to be adapted to film or TV.

There is a lot to absorb in The Golden Notebook. It is about feminism and politics and sexuality and control. But it works for me. And although I grew up in a different world than Anna and Lessing and Ella, I often saw myself in her and recognized her struggles.

Saturday, March 14, 2020 8:00:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, March 12, 2020

GCast 77:

Connecting Azure Synapse to External Data

Azure Data Warehouse has been re-branded as Azure Synapse. Learn how to add data from an external system to an Azure Synapse database.

Thursday, March 12, 2020 10:07:09 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, March 9, 2020

Episode 601

Don Ward on Flutter

Flutter is an open source framework from Google, designed to help you build cross-platform applications. Don Ward tells us what it does and how to use it.

Monday, March 9, 2020 9:43:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, March 8, 2020

tmbg01 It has been 30 years since the release of "Flood" - the breakthrough album by iconic nerd-rock band They Might Be Giants.  To celebrate, the band is touring the United States, vowing to play every song from this album at each show.

Friday night, they played The Vic Theatre in Chicago to a sold-out audience that braved the cold weather and threats of coronavirus to cheer on the kings of the 2-minute song.

For almost 3 hours (including an intermission), TMBG rocked the Vic while the audience sang along to songs they grew up with.

Few bands have the kind of cult following enjoyed by TMBG. TMBG has never had a top-40 single and only a handful of their songs have cracked the alternative rock charts. But their audiences love them and flock to their concerts and memorize their lyrics.

tmbg03Technically, TMBG consists of only two members: John Flansburgh and John Linnell. But, for this tour they were joined by 3 others to fill out their songs. Linnell looks like a computer science student and Flansburgh looks like Linnell's dad. The point is that both project nerdiness - in their appearance and in their music, which consists of cerebral lyrics, catchy melodies, and experimental electronic sounds. And a trumpet.

In addition to performing every song from "Flood" (in no particular order), the band played numerous songs from their 22-album catalog.

Highlights included

  • an extended version of "Spy"
  • an acoustic guitar intro to "Istanbul"
  • high-energy performances of "Birdhouse in Your Soul", "Doctor Worm" and "The Mesopotamians".

tmbg04They even played one song ("Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love") backwards!

I've been listening to TMBG since their "Flood" days and this is the first time I've seen them in concert. I was lucky to get a ticket to this sold-out show from someone selling his last ticket outside the venue. I'm so glad I did.

Set list

Sunday, March 8, 2020 9:10:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, March 7, 2020

ManWhoFoldedHimselfWhen Dan's Uncle Jim died, he left Dan one thing: a belt that allowed Dan to travel backward and forward in time. His first instinct was to use the device to make himself rich via gambling and investments.  But then, he uses it to correct mistakes - either in his own life or in history. His actions sometimes result in unpleasant side effects; but he can always go back a bit earlier and undo his "corrections". Dan has it all. His godlike powers allow him to build a life to his own suiting; and he spends most of his time with past and future versions of himself, because they are the only people he understands and who understand him.

But the world becomes confusing the more he alters his timeline. He becomes more isolated and less certain of what is reality. Eventually, he must confront the responsibility that comes with the power he has inherited.

Dan laments:

"But when you can erase your mistakes in a minute, you tend to get careless.
Until you make one you can't."

There is a twist at the end, but it was one I saw coming halfway through the novella. But this story isn't about plot twists. It's about the character of a man who can do anything for himself - one who needs no one else.

The Man Who Folded Himself is about self-identity; and personal responsibility; and cause and effect; and what it means to have it all. And it covers these topics in a mere 116 pages. This might be the most amazing thing about the book - no small feat for a story that deals with time travel.

Saturday, March 7, 2020 8:13:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, March 5, 2020

GCast 76:

Creating an Azure Synapse database

Azure Data Warehouse has been renamed to Azure Synapse. This video walks you through the creation of a Synapse database.

Database | GCast | Video
Thursday, March 5, 2020 8:56:53 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)