# Saturday, March 6, 2021

Cassie Bowden is a flight attendant who makes very bad choices.

She frequently drinks until she blacks out and she often has sex with random strangers during these blackouts.

Surprisingly, she has suffered few long-term consequences for her choices; but that changes one morning in Dubai, when she wakes up next to a naked man with a slit throat.

Chris Bohjalian's 2018 novel The Flight Attendant follows Cassie as she flees the crime scene in Dubai, through the suspicion cast on her, and her chronic self-destructive behavior.

The action switches from the Middle East to New York to Rome and we get a peek inside Cassie and her pursuers, building both the action and the characters. Bohjalian does a good job developing the backgrounds and flaws of his main characters, particularly the title character and the assassin who lurks in the background. Each is plagued with daddy issues that contributed to the life they are currently leading.

I enjoyed the flawed protagonist and the espionage mixed throughout the book. The ending felt a bit rushed as some of the twists came a little too suddenly, but I can forgive this.

Overall, this was an entertaining read.

Saturday, March 6, 2021 8:59:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, March 4, 2021

GCast 106:

Audio Transcription and Captioning with Azure Media Services

Azure Media Services can analyze an audio or video file and transcribe speech into text. You can then take the generated files and provide synchronized captioning for your video.

Thursday, March 4, 2021 8:52:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, March 1, 2021

Episode 650

Christos Matskos on Microsoft Identity Platform

Microsoft Identity Platform is a set of authentication service, open-source libraries, and application management tools. Christos Matskas describes these tools and how to use them to make your application more secure.


Monday, March 1, 2021 8:48:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, February 27, 2021

Fragile Things is a collection of 25 short stories and 7 poems written by Neil Gaiman.

Most of the stories have dark - even macabre - themes. One tells how demons are created in Hell; in another, a man discovers that he has been living his entire life in a computer simulation; still another involves a boy's sexual enslavement by an ultra-rich man.

Some are more fully fleshed out than others, as if Gaiman began a longer novel before giving up; but these are worth including because Gaiman has such a gift for language and knows how to tell a story, even if it is a partial story.

Each story is independent of the others, but some exist in the same universe. For example, the wealthy Mr. Alice and his employee Mr. Smith appear in two different stories.

A couple satires or homages to the writings of other authors - C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia and Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes; and a few are inspired by art and music heard by Gaiman.

My favourite entry was the longest and final story in the collection - The Monarch of the Glen, which featured Shadow of American Gods and takes place a couple years after that novel.

Nearly everything in this book has appeared elsewhere and I had already read a few of the stories, but I enjoyed them again this time around.

Saturday, February 27, 2021 9:50:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, February 25, 2021

GCast 105:

Analyzing a Video with Azure Media Services

Learn how to use Azure Media Services to apply Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to a video, analyzing such things as face detection, speech-to-text, object detection, and optical character recognition

Thursday, February 25, 2021 8:52:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, February 22, 2021

Episode 649

Richard Taylor on the Microsoft Revenue Recognition System

Richard Taylor is working on a system to process revenue received by tech giant Microsoft. He discusses the challenge in building and maintaining a large system like this and in migrating it to Azure.

Monday, February 22, 2021 8:43:00 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, February 20, 2021

Tommy James and the Shondells turned out hit after hit in the 1960s. But James saw very little of the royalties generated by sales of his records. That money was controlled by crime boss Morris Levy, who signed a teenage James to a deal with his Roulette Records in 1966. The band went on to release two #1 records and  a dozen Top 40 singles over the next 5 years.

But Levy was notorious for non-payment of debts including tens of millions of royalties owed to James. James was forced to earn his money through constant touring and profited very little off the sale of his records.

Despite this betrayal, James and Levy maintained a close relationship throughout much of their lives. Levy was excellent at promoting James's music and James enjoyed a great deal of artistic freedom as Roulette's biggest star. James's career also benefited from Levy's strong-arm tactics: He would often bully songwriters into saving their best work for his artists.

Me, the Mob, and the Music: One Helluva Ride with Tommy James and the Shondells is Tommy James's story of life in the spotlight. It contains the usual anecdotes about women and booze and drugs that seem to be part of every rocker's life. But these stories are secondary to his interactions with Roulette and Levy.

The story climaxes in a gang war that sees Levy fleeing the country and James fearing for his life.

One wonders why James continued his relationship with Levy when he was treated so unfairly. Did he feel it was unsafe for him to leave? Was he a victim of Stockholm Syndrome? Did the career advantages of associating with Roulette outweighed the financial disadvantages?

One  wonders if the corruption at Roulette was a microcosm of the corruption in the entire music industry in the 1960s; and if that corruption continues today.

One wonders if Tommy James ever received all the royalties he was due.

Despite the unanswered questions, this book was an enjoyable read about an unlikely hitmaker and his adventures with the underbelly of the industry.

Saturday, February 20, 2021 9:49:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Thursday, February 18, 2021

GCast 104:

Sharing a Video Online with Azure Media Services

Learn how to use Azure Media Services to share a video on the web for streaming and/or for downloading.

Thursday, February 18, 2021 8:51:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Monday, February 15, 2021

Episode 648

Julie Lerman on Entity Framework Core 5

Julie Lerman describes some of the new features included in EF Core 5.

Monday, February 15, 2021 8:38:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Saturday, February 13, 2021

Alexander Portnoy has issues.

An overprotective mother left him straddled with guilt and an Oedipal complex. His childhood memories are dominated by unpleasant bodily functions - his father complaining of persistent constipation; his mother accidentally spilling a drop of menstrual blood on the kitchen floor; his own inability to wipe himself completely or to control his masturbation.

Portnoy was raised by Jewish parents, grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, attended a Jewish school, and all his friends were Jewish. As an adult, he became obsessed with seducing attractive non-Jewish women ("shikses", as he calls them). But Portnoy has no interest in a real relationship. When referring to his past lovers, he is more likely to call them by a nickname than to use their real name. He calls his latest lover "The Monkey" after a past sexual incident she confessed to him. This is just one way in which he dehumanizes women, treating them only as sex objects. The Monkey is absurdly ignorant, but Portnoy stays with her because she is beautiful and good in bed; Portnoy is overtly misogynistic, but The Monkey stays with him because she hopes that he will marry her.

Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth is a satirical confession of a 33-year-old sex addict, who recognizes his self-destructive behavior and feels extreme guilt over it; but is powerless to correct these flaws. Despite his numerous faults and our very different upbringings, I was able to relate to his life.

The story is humorous, but crude. It is crude, but humorous.

I feel a little guilty for enjoying it so much.

Saturday, February 13, 2021 9:22:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)