# Monday, April 13, 2020

Episode 604

Sarah Lean on Adjusting to the Pandemic

As a Microsoft Cloud Advocate, Sarah Lean used to travel around the world speaking to IT professionals. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced her to accomplish her goals while staying at home. She talks about the adjustments she has made.

Monday, April 13, 2020 9:04:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Saturday, April 11, 2020

LovingHenry Green's Loving opens with "Once Upon a day..." and closes with "...and lived happily ever after", but it is not a fairy tale.

The novel takes place in the castle home of the rich Tenant family, but the story focuses on the servants.

It is the middle of World War II and the butler has just passed away. Footman Charley Raunce is promoted to butler, so the Tenants stop calling him "Albert" (which wasn't his name anyway) and start calling him Mr. Raunce. The position goes to his head and some of the other servants resent him for it, but it does not deter Edith the maid from falling in love with him.

Then the servants catch one of the Tenants in an adulterous act and Mrs. Tenant loses a valuable ring and the servants are left alone in the house for days and the ring is found and people argue and they laugh and they gossip and they fall in love.

"Loving" is just a story about ordinary life among a particular class of people in a particular place and time. Nothing much happens. The War rages throughout Europe, but not in neutral Ireland. Instead of action, we get a lot of dialogue and a peek into personalities and prejudices (everyone seems to dislike and distrust the Irish and the Catholics) and lonely people craving affection and the tension between the ruling class and serving class.

It is a small story, but it's a good one.

While not a fairy tale and not the classic that some claim, I enjoyed Mr. Green's novel.

Saturday, April 11, 2020 9:50:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Thursday, April 9, 2020

GCast 81:

Spring Boot Quick Start

Learn how to quickly generate a Java application based on the Spring Boot framework.

GCast | Java | Screencast | Video
Thursday, April 9, 2020 9:02:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Monday, April 6, 2020

Episode 603

Brent Stineman on Remote Recording

Brent Stineman talks about an internal podcast he produces for Microsoft and the challenges of interviewing people hundreds or thousands of miles away from him.

Monday, April 6, 2020 9:03:00 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# Sunday, April 5, 2020

4/5
Today I am grateful my ankle is now healed after I twisted it last week.

4/4
Today I am grateful for the singing and cheering and flashing lights every evening in my neighborhood

4/3
Today I am grateful for a lunchtime virtual meeting yesterday with old friends and to Jeff for inviting me.

4/2
Today I am grateful I have started interviewing people for my show again.

4/1
Today I am grateful that Donald Trump is an honest, humble man, who puts the interests of our country above his own profits and insecurities and that he is totally not a racist.

3/31
Today I am grateful to all the teachers who put their health at risk going to a crowded classroom full of potentially sick kids every day and have quickly shifted to online teaching when it became necessary.

3/30
Today I am grateful for a virtual lunch with Nick, Tim, Adriana, and Nathale yesterday.

3/29
Today I am grateful to successfully complete a project with a customer last week.

3/28
Today I am grateful to Stephen for giving me a Postmates credit.

3/27
Today I am grateful for an online chat yesterday with David, Kevin, Joel, and Richard that included lots of puns and laughter.

3/26
Today I am grateful to be a guest on Jeffrey's live Twitch stream yesterday.

3/25
Today I am grateful to all the health care workers who are working even harder than usual this year and putting themselves at greater risk to help us.

3/24
Today I am grateful to Carl for playing his guitar and singing from his living room every night for those of us listening all over the world.

3/23
Today I am grateful I was able to set up 2 wireless old printers, 2 old PCs, and a scanner this weekend.

3/22
Today I am grateful to try a food delivery service for the first time.

3/21
Today I am grateful to those who trust me enough to tell me their problems.

3/20
Today I am grateful for spring and the hope that it brings.

3/19
Today I am grateful for a hot bath before going to bed last night.

3/18
Today I am grateful that I'm used to working from home.

3/17
Today I a m grateful for good health care.

3/15
Today I am grateful that I had plenty of toilet paper at home when the madness struck.

3/14
Today I am grateful for dinner last night with Rob and George and their families.

3/13
Today I am grateful to have a working printer in my home for the first time in years.

3/12
Today I am grateful to Adam for picking me up at the hospital and driving me home yesterday.

3/11
Today I am grateful to attend a Windy City Bulls G-League game last night for the first time.

3/10
Today I am grateful for birthday gifts that arrived in the mail last week.

3/9
Today I am grateful for a third straight Big10 championship

3/8
Today I am grateful to speak at the Global Integration Boot Camp yesterday

3/7
Today I am grateful to see They Might Be Giants in concert last night.

3/6
Today I am grateful to work at Microsoft.

3/5
Today I am grateful to Tim for taking me out for an excellent Italian dinner for my birthday last night.

3/4
Today I am grateful for tacos.

3/3
Today I am grateful for books

3/2
Today I am grateful for all the birthday wishes yesterday - particularly those that included an extra kind message.

Sunday, April 5, 2020 2:30:29 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
# 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)