# Saturday, April 4, 2020

GoodbyeToBerlinAuthor Christopher Isherwood lived in Berlin, Germany in the early 1930s. In 1939, he published a fictionalized collection of short stories about his life during that time.

This collection - published as Goodbye to Berlin - is often packaged with Isherwood's earlier semiautobiographical novel Mr. Norris Changes Trains as a single volume under the title: The Berlin Stories. But unlike the earlier novel, the Goodbye narrator explicitly identifies himself by name. And the latter novel has much more depth than Norris. Whether we are hearing about two gay men in a doomed relationship or a struggling working-class family living in a condemned attic or a wealthy Jewish family under attack from fascists, the reader understands the people with whom we interact. They are real to us.

The stories sometimes cross one another's timelines, but each concerns Isherwood's relationship with a person or group of persons.

The most interesting character is Sally Bowles - a charming gold-digger who tries to sleep her way to a successful acting career. Christopher develops a fondness for her and a friendship, despite his jealousy of her many lovers.  This story inspired the popular musical "Cabaret" in which Liza Minelli starred as Sally.

In the final chapter, the author leaves Berlin to escape the brutality of the new regime, and the changes to the atmosphere, culture, and safety of the city he loves. But many of the other characters say "Goodbye" to this city throughout the novel - they either depart suddenly to travel abroad or they disappear mysteriously.

Goodbye to Berlin shines as a study of human relationships and the ways we interact with one another and communicate day to day. It shines as a commentary on the roles of men and women in society. And it shines as a study of the oppression experienced by Jews and other minorities during the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany.

The author put it best when he wrote:

"It is strange how people seem to belong to places — especially to places where they were not born…"

Isherwood belonged to Berlin - but it is a Berlin that ceased to exist after he left.

Saturday, April 4, 2020 9:18:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, April 2, 2020

GCast 80:

Conditional Logic in Power Automate

This video shows how to add conditional logic to a Microsoft Power Automate workflow.

Thursday, April 2, 2020 11:01:11 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, March 28, 2020

MrNorrisChangesTrainsOn a train heading to Berlin, two English expatriates strike up a conversation that later evolves into a friendship. William Bradshaw and Arthur Norris spend many days and evenings together over the coming months - dining out, visiting at home, and patronizing a local brothel.

Norris is the title character of Christopher Isherwood's 1935 novel Mr. Norris Changes Trains, which was published as The Last of Mr. Norris in the United States.

Norris is eccentric and charming and there is something untrustworthy about him. He is broke but leads an extravagant lifestyle; he claims to be in the "import-export" business but is vague about what exactly he imports and exports; and his wealth is suddenly increased after a mysterious business trip to Paris. Norris is also vain (he regularly wears makeup and a wig); and a sexual deviant (he pays a prostitute to beat and humiliate him); He has a combative relationship with his servant Schmidt and the two spar frequently and hold one another in contempt.

Norris's many flaws complicate his life, but they do not discourage William's friendship.

Isherwood paints a picture of 1930s as the Weimar Republic comes to an end and the Nazis and Communists vie for power. He brings together an interesting set of characters, most of whom seem to be insincere and dishonest. William (a surrogate for the author) narrates the novel, but interjects very little of himself into the story, which focuses on Mr. Norris and his flaws.

There isn't a lot of action in this book; but the characters and the dialogue make it worthwhile. We see the frivolity of high society and we see relationships damaged and repaired and we see the political conflicts in the days before the rise of Hitler and the start of the Second World War.

When Norris persuades William to help him with a mysterious business venture, his dishonesty is exposed.

In his later years, Isherwood dismissed this novel as too shallow. I don't dismiss it. It works well for its length and Isherwood can be forgiven for not predicting the Nazi atrocities when he wrote this story in the 1930s; and for not revealing his own sexuality in the narrator.

Mr. Norris Changes Trains is not a classic but is a good story with good characters.

Saturday, March 28, 2020 8:26:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# 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)