# 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)
# 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)
# Monday, March 2, 2020

Episode 600

A Celebration of Friends

A look back at the last 100 episodes of Technology and Friends!

    Venkat Subramaniam
    Jon Skeet
    Laurent Bugnion
    Jennifer Wadella
    Douglas Crockford
    Jeff Fritz
    Raffaele Rialdi
     Carolina Banales
    Elton Stoneman
    Brandon Satrom
    Heather Wilde
    Jennifer Marsman
    Walt Ritscher
    Jeremy Miller
    Jayson Street
    Angela Dugan
    Heather Downing
    Robert Green
    Jon Galloway
    Tibi Covaci
    Lorena Mesa
     Bill Wagner
    Angie Byron
    Hao Luo
    J Tower
    Dan Rey
    Alex Mang
    Eric Boyd
    Tim Reilly
    JD Marymee
    Jim Wooley
    Lwin Maung
    Frank Gill
    Jason Bock
    Jean Lange
    Isaac Bayoh
    Ruth Yakubu
    Kevin Gates
    Jes Schultz
    Bryan Glenn
    Kate Gregory
    John Azariah
    Brady Gaster
    Ondrej Balas
    Raj Krishnan
    Phil Japikse
    Martin Kearn
    Annie Bougie
    Arthur Doler
    Erwin Derksen
    Rajasa Savant
    Robert Greene
    Jackie Becker
    Kevin Griffin
    Bret Stateham
    Adam Hecktman
    David Makogon
    Tobiah Zarlez
    Geisa Faustino
    Brent Stineman
    Melanie Adcock
    Mike Benkovich
    John Alexander
    Jeremy Likness
    Edward Thomson
    Silviu Niculita
    Cassandra Faris
     Elizabeth Graham
    Hattan Shobokshi
    Whitney Griffith
     Tobiasz Koprowski
    Raymond Comvalius
    Laurent Ellerbach
    Hilary Weaver-Robb
    Christian Geuer-Pollmann
    Michael Eaton
    Courtney Eaton
    Gabrielle Sempf
    Spencer Schneidenback
    Rob Reynolds
    Robert Martin
    Jim Christopher
     Kevin Leung
    Guillermo Bellman
    Fabian Fernandez
    Nicolas Bello
    Kevin Ashley
    Christine Matheney
    Atley Hunter
    Zach Miller
    Don Ward

Recorded 2017-2020 in
    Chicago, IL
    Rome, Italy
    Cluj-Napoca, Romania
    Oslo, Norway
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Sandusky, OH
    Wisconsin Dells, WI
    Vancouver, BC
    Redmond, WA
    Montevideo, Uruguay
    Atlanta, GA
    Seattle, WA
    Toronto, ON
    Orlando, FL
    Milwaukee, WI
    Downers Grove, IL
    Grand Rapids, MI
    Copenhagen, Denmark
    Helsingborg, Sweden

Monday, March 2, 2020 9:09:00 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
# Sunday, March 1, 2020

Today I am grateful for a visit yesterday to the Ed Paschke Art Center

Today I am grateful that I'm starting to feel caught up for the first time in months.

Today I am grateful for dinner with David and Debi last night.

Today I am grateful for dinner with Lino last night.

‪Today I am grateful for the Chicago PedWay on a cold, sleeting day. ‬

Today I am grateful to deliver my first user group presentation of the year last night.

Today I am grateful for my first bike ride of 2020.

Today I am grateful for a day in Milwaukee.

Today I am grateful for the gym in my building

Today I am grateful to learn something new every day.

Today I am grateful to see my son's Kalamazoo College team earn their second straight victory last night.

Today I am grateful for a massage yesterday.

Today I am grateful for a late-night hot bath.

Today I am grateful to see the Orchid Show yesterday at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Today I am grateful for:
-a successful week in Charlotte with my customer
-an upgrade to First Class on my flight home
-dinner with my son last night

Today I am grateful to see Kamasi Washington in concert last night in Charlotte, NC.

Today I am grateful for dinner with my team last night.

Today I am grateful to attend a Charlotte Checkers ice hockey game last night.

Today I am grateful to return to North Carolina - the state of my birth.

Today I am grateful for a successful Envisioning Session yesterday.

Today I am grateful for Texas BBQ.

Today I am grateful for my new webcam.

Today I am grateful I can pay bills online.

Today I am grateful for dinner with Tim last night.

Today I am grateful for a gym in my building.

Today I am grateful for Mark Dantonio.

Today I am grateful for my CPAP machine.

Today I am grateful for an exciting Super Bowl.

Sunday, March 1, 2020 11:18:09 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)